Below is Sustainable Carlisle’s response to the Carlisle City Council consultation on draft environment (climate change) strategy document.
1.How concerned are you about Climate Change?
We are extremely concerned. The amount of man-made CO2 we are putting into the atmosphere continues to rise even as our governments make pledges to reduce it. The Global Heating it is producing drives the unprecedented rate of loss of ice (28 trillion tonnes since 1984) from melting ice caps and glaciers triggering rising ocean levels and disrupted coastal populations. This heating also drives the climatic changes that are resulting in raging wildfires from Australia through Siberia to California. It is responsible for flooding and droughts across the globe and the attendant misery, deaths and rocketing costs. It is pushing to near extinction the very biodiversity on which we rely to source our food and the wildlife from fish to mammals that play such an important part in our natural ecosystem.
This Climate Crisis threatens our ability to maintain anything like an ordered human society.
2. What role do you see Carlisle City Council playing?
The Climate Crisis is a worldwide threat with huge consequences and can only seriously be tackled by local communities, counties, and nations all working together. For this reason the local council must first appreciate and explain this and not only describe it as ‘a change in temperature and rainfall over a long period of time’. The council has a responsibility to present the truth of the massive impacts of the Climate Crisis to the local community and join the growing ranks of scientists, banks, businesses, government and intergovernmental panels, statutory and non- statutory agencies and threatened communities around the globe in calling for and carrying through concerted action to tackle the problem. There is no more time for downplaying this massive challenge.
The City Council can lead by firstly implementing the many small scale actions within its power from introducing measures to reduce traffic and enhance other forms of transport to large-scale tree planting and measures to protect and enhance biodiversity. These actions should include the involvement of local residents and organised in such a way as to disseminate information and education on the wider issues. There are many such actions being implemented across the country that can be ‘borrowed’ by the council without reinventing the wheel.
Secondly the council should set the signposts that will take us in the right direction in the long term to tackle this problem by recognising that it is people who drive prosperity. By adopting the likes of ‘the Preston model’ which can help in overall community wealth-building, encouraging new forms of small businesses such as co-ops and partnerships which can enrich the culture of our community and looking at ways to set up public- led projects to deliver new, clean, green, sustainable jobs in retro-fitting, insulation and energy production and distribution, the council can develop the groundwork for a truly local thriving community.
Thirdly, the council and our local politicians must lobby and argue for the financial resources and legal changes that will be required to bring these plans to fruition. There is no more time for hand-wringing and unsupported good intentions.
3.What role do you see other local organisations playing?
Local organisations have a vital part to play in informing and activating our communities. Their involvement will be dependent on the amount of trust and confidence the council can engender through transparency and engagement. We must all be able to move beyond political dogma and edicts from on high if we are to find the necessary ways of working together. And it must be together. Local organisations, statutory and non-statutory must be truly involved at every level and not become a dumping ground for others responsibilities. It is also difficult to cultivate trust and confidence when stated objectives such as ‘ avoid inappropriate development in areas at risk of flooding’ conflict with the pushing forward with the Sands Centre Redevelopment on just such an area. Other such examples would include measures that increase traffic such as road and car park construction and allowing private developers to continue building housing that does not meet high passivehaus standards nor include solar installations which just pushes the financial burden further down the line. Trust and confidence cannot be built on such contradictory and weak foundations.
4.What role do you see the public playing?
Without the public on board the chances of success in tackling the Climate Crisis are hugely diminished. This is why it is crucial the council immediately begin to set up a Citizens Assembly/Jury. We can see the benefits of this from other parts of the country and from the People’s Assembly set up by government. Residents become much better informed, deliberate more fully and come to better decisions that can then give confidence to local officials to carry out those depictions. If this process is handled correctly and made transparent, larger and larger parts of our community become informed and involved leading to more action and increased activity with increased public backing.
Participatory budgeting can also engage the public and increase the sense of involvement and responsibility that comes with being valued as a citizen and not just a consumer.
5.Are there any additional objectives and actions that will improve this strategy?
It would be useful if the council were more ambitious and creative. Actions that have already been started within property, estate and fleet, such as the introduction of photo-voltaic installations, and car charging facilities should be expanded. Council led information campaigns on the crisis should be organised with local organisations. Lessons should be learned from the current covid pandemic and working from home promoted, alleviation of poverty and injustice highlighted and investment focussed on key workers and green sustainable jobs.
6.Is it clear whether the actions in the action plan (page 10-14) are best delivered locally, Cumbria-wide and/or nationally?
Without a wider description of ‘Climate Change ‘ in terms of the actual Climate Crisis, clarity is difficult to achieve. By setting these terms correctly and explaining how all our actions are important at all levels, our interconnected responsibilities will be more apparent as will be the reasons for our actions.
7.Would a separation of local, Cumbria-wide and/or national actions make the strategy clearer.
Most likely no. There certainly must be appropriate coordinating bodies at all these levels but they must all be working together in the same direction, implementing appropriate parts of the larger plan and supporting each other.
8.Which parts of the strategy and actions (page 10-14) do you think will really help to tackle climate change the most?
All the stated objectives are admirable in their stated intention but do seem to lack the strong philosophical underpinning and more concrete actions that would help deflect criticism of paying lip service. There is an sense of ‘tinkering’ within the strategy. Confidence starts at home and perhaps more ambition is required.
Having said that..
Objective 2 could be extremely effective. If projects can be set up to reduce energy consumption from homes and businesses by retrofitting and insulation, new green jobs can be created and fuel poverty tackled. The difficulty is how this is done. By setting up public partnership run companies the council could make great strides in this area while creating new jobs, increasing climate awareness and strengthening community resilience, avoiding some of the exploitative practices that have helped bring us to where we are today. The promotion and indeed requirement of sustainable and energy efficient construction is paramount and should be implemented immediately.
Objective 3 seems at odds with calls from the council to fill up the car parks and build yet more. Proposed developments around the railway station and extending the ring road also fail to live up to this intention. A much more serious attitude must be developed, and much more serious measures implemented if this objective is to be met. There are specific plans for improving cycling infrastructure in the city and they should be given priority. There is much to be learned from other cities and a fact finding trip may be fruitful.
Objective 4 requires much more pressure on the producers of waste such as supermarkets. While they continue to sell products in unnecessary packaging, especially plastics, we have next to no chance of seriously reducing this problem. They must be held to account and the council/residents should be talking to them and organising to bring pressure to bear.
Objective 5 goes without saying.
9. Do you think we should follow production or consumption accounting?
Both. This will obviously be more difficult but it will also be the most meaningful and useful.
10.What would make the best target for this strategy?
Scientific consensus suggests that the target of 2050 may be too late to mitigate many of the consequences of the climate crisis. The Cumbria baseline report may set a closer date but we must aim to move as quickly and efficiently as we can. We must bear in mind that target dates can, counter intuitively, slow action down by giving a sense that we have more time than we actually have.
11. What is your reasoning behind your answer to question 10.
12. Should there be more focus on carbon capture and storage through council land assets.
Yes. There should be a sizeable increase in tree planting on council land assets. Although it must be recognised that carbon capture technologies are often proposed as offering an answer to our problems, they do not yet exist in any realistically helpful way. Well planned tree planting offers not just carbon capture but hope to our stressed and depleted biodiversity and wildlife.
13. Should there be more focus on carbon capture, storage and future use?
No, not if it means directing energy and resources towards technologies that are either unproven, non-existent or prohibitively costly. At the moment natural methods such as tree planting, bogs and others should be the focus.
14. Do you have any other comments you wish to make about the draft strategy?
The strategy needs to adopt the language of the Climate Crisis, and needs to focus more on building a thriving local community with full involvement in decision making. A greater emphasis on clean, green, sustainable job creation would help make it more attractive and help set us forward on a more positive route rather than backwards towards tinkering with ‘business as usual’.
It would be helpful if there was some way for organisations such as ourselves to input orally at the next stage in the process of developing the strategy. There are a number of limitations in this current consultation process. The document as it stands is a bit too heavy on intention and light on concrete actions. We believe we have something to offer in correcting this state of affairs and would be happy to have discussions.
15. How do you think the City Council can best engage and work with residents to implement this strategy?
As mentioned above, the council must move immediately to set up a Citizens Assembly/Jury and organise meetings with interested local groups to explore the way forward. Participatory budgeting models should be explored.
Also as mentioned above, the council should begin a series of actions around the city to help begin practically inform the public on the direction of travel. More transparency would also help engage the public.