Bold climate action26 January 2020
Climate change is the biggest threat facing humanity. We have ten more years to get our carbon emissions under control and stop global warming going over 1.5C. The IPCC report warns that even half a degree more will make things far worse. The fires in Australia are only the beginning. In Britain – including Bristol – we are likely to see more flooding, storms and heatwaves. We’ll see more refugees, driven out of their countries by droughts, sea-level rise, and conflicts over shrinking resources.
Bristol has profited from global industrialisation for longer than most cities in the world so we have a moral duty to lead in tackling the problem. But for decades, I’ve seen politicians promise green action but make things worse, just as Boris is now bailing out the airline Flybe and Bristol mayor supports the expansion of Bristol Airport.
The climate crisis isn’t new
Only the Green Party has consistently campaigned about the climate crisis, and it has done so for 45 years. It was the Bristol Green Party that called for a climate emergency to be declared in the city, sparking a movement across the UK and beyond. And the Green Party has always understood that technical fixes such as renewable energy are part of the solution but that we must also change how we consume – buying less, reusing more.
The Green Party proposed that the city should aim for carbon neutrality by 2030 and Bristol City Council agreed. This is a big task but perfectly achievable with bold action.
As Green Mayor, I will tackle carbon emissions
A third of our carbon emissions comes from electricity. Renewable energy is now as cheap as fossil fuel energy but the transition is too slow. In Bristol, we need to generate more of our own energy – for example, from solar – involving homes, businesses and community organisations. This will cut our carbon emissions and can also make money.
Another third of our emissions comes from heating our homes and businesses. We urgently need to move away from gas, and we can do this with community heating systems and a new type of boiler (the air source heat pump, which runs on electricity). It would cost about £4bn to convert the whole city – but this would also create many new skilled jobs. Only central government has the money and the policy levers to make it happen, so we will campaign hard for this and act quickly as soon as money is available.
The final third of emissions comes from transport, an area where Bristol City Council can do most. We need to get Bristol moving and give people a real choice in how to move around the city: investment in bus lanes to make bus travel fast and cheap; dedicated cycle lanes to make cycling safe; and good walking routes, including the pedestrianisation of the city centre and better road crossings. We need to reduce car use by about 40% and electrify the rest – something that has already been done in cities such as Amsterdam and Copenhagen. And we need to say no to airport expansion, with its huge increases in carbon emissions.
A fairer and green city – a future to look forward to
Other politicians are afraid to make such changes. But because the Green Party has looked deeply at tackling the climate emergency, we know that many of the solutions will bring about positive change – they will make Bristol a greener, fairer, healthier and more prosperous city.
For example, better public transport both reduces our carbon emissions and makes Bristol a fairer place – giving all our communities the means to travel across the city to access jobs and education. We will be healthier, lowering the costs of the NHS, because more of us will walk and cycle. We will create more jobs – estimated at 80,000 in Bristol – to change how we heat and light our homes. Plumbers, construction workers and bus drivers will be in high demand. Local businesses will benefit too as we aim to ‘Buy from Bristol’ for our goods and services. Streets less dominated by cars will be places where children can play and communities can flourish.
I am excited about how Bristol could be. I think we have a future to look forward to, not to fear. But only if we are bold in tackling the climate emergency and making Bristol a beacon for others to follow.