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The Labour administration in Newcastle needs to up its game to meet Climate Emergency

April 9, 2019 4:10 PM

Fight Climate ChangeNewcastle Council needs a Cabinet report within 6 months outlining the actions it will take to tackle the climate emergency, Cllr Wendy Taylor has demanded on behalf of the Liberal Democrats Opposition Group.

On October 8th 2018 the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate change released a vital report on the state of climate science. They warned that if the planet warmed by 1.5 degree C. there would be some devastating consequeneces, such as the loss of most coral reefs and extreme weather such as heatwavs and floods. The consequences of a 2C warming would be truly catastrophic. Given that the planet is currently heading for 3-4degree warming, keeping to 1.5C requires a radical shift across energy, land, industrial, urban amd other systems to reduce emissions. Yet in the autumn budget last year, Climate Change was not even mentioned. In February thousands of schoolchildren and young people walked out of classes to join a UK-wide climate strike amid growing anger at the failure of politicians to tackle this escalating ecological crisis.

Organisers said more than 10,000 young people in at least 60 towns and cities from the Scottish Highlands to Cornwall joined the strike, defying threats of detention to voice their frustration at the older generation's inaction on the environmental impact of climate change.

The size of the Youth Strike 4 Climate is testament to the passion and awareness among young people that we need to fight for a future that simply doesn't exist because they feel they have been betrayed by the inaction of those in positions of power.

In March from Australia to America, children put down their books to march for change in the first global climate strike.
The event was embraced in the developing nations of India and Uganda and in the Philippines and Nepal - countries acutely impacted by climate change - as tens of thousands of schoolchildren and students in more than 100 countries went on "strike", demanding the political elite urgently address what they say is a climate emergency.
Now Councils across the UK are declaring a Climate emergency and committing to actions to protect our planet from further change. For as this motion makes clear, humans have already caused irreversible Climate change and current plans and local actions are not enough to prevent overshooting the Paris agreement's limit of 1.5 degree C rise by 2050. To achieve what is needed there has to be cooperation between local and National Government, businesses, voluntary groups and local people and we need clear, measurable targets.

In the past Newcastle City Council, under a Liberal Democrats administartion, made a strong commitment to tackling climate change, signing the Nottingham Declaration on Climate change in 2006 and publishing the Climate Change strategy and action plan in 2008, This strategy outlined how the Council would work towards tackling greenhouse gases. And due to actions we were taking, Newcastle was declared the most sustainable city in the UK 2 years running. The Council also commissioned research, published in 2010, looking at the attitudes of Newcastle residents towards Climate change. The survey team spoke to residents from every ward and across the age ranges and the results were encouraging. Over 80% of residents said they knew a little or a lot about climate change. Only 9% thought that Climate Change is not important. Nearly 80% thought that the City Council should be tackling climate change and the majority of residents were already taking actions such as double glazing, low energy lights and switching off appliances. Nearly 90% were prepared to take measures such as installing renewable technologies or replacing boilers if some discounts were available. So even 9 years ago, Newcastle residents were open to making the changes we need.

In 2010 I was very proud to bring the Newcastle declaration on Climate Change to Council. In it the Newcastle City Council reaffirmed its commitment to tackle climate change and work with residents and partners to reduce the city's carbon emissions by 34% (from 1990 levels) by 2020.
Unfortunately very few of the actions and targets in the declaration have been achieved.

• Increasing domestic waste recycling to 55% by 2020 (currently 38%) Near the bottom of the list of Councils for collecting dry recycling at the kerbside. The % household waste recycled hasn't increased since 2010. % waste composted hasn't increased since 2011
Recent waste strategy - good words but no targets
Abandoned the long term goal of zero waste
• Ensuring all new homes are built to the zero carbon standard from 2016
• Ensure that every home that can benefit from cavity and loft insulation has been treated by 2015.
• Deliver low carbon energy solutions across the city including community based energy schemes, solid wall insulation and renewable energy generation.
• Support the city's businesses in reducing their carbon emissions by 34% by 2020
Eradicate fuel poverty as far as is practicable by 2016
• Develop the Science Central site as the focal point for applied research and practice by the public and private sectors across the whole sustainability field
• Support the development and introduction of electric vehicles across the North East, including the expansion of charging points powered by renewable energy where practicable.

Meeting 20% of our electricity demands by low carbon energy sources by 2020
In March 2016 report to Cabinet on 100% clean energy city-excellent report full of good ideas, but again almost nothing seems to have happened since. Be a 100% clean energy city by 2050; Refresh our climate change strategy and prepare planning policies in the Development and Allocations plan to support this; and Support a wider set of sustainability principles for all council activity in support of the Council's priorities
We will develop a new waste strategy-taken 3 years

The Council will monitor total carbon emissions and energy use for the city, progress in adaptation framework, and measures of transport infrastructure provision. These will be provided to the Council's Sustainability and climate Change group and Cabinet as appropriate. It is already envisaged that a refreshed Climate Change strategy will be brought to cabinet in early 2017 for approval of the detailed roadmap to achieving the new 100% clean target. Do we even still have a Sustainability and Climate change group?
We will align the planned refresh of the climate change strategy and the development and allocations plan to ensure that the planning system plays a strong role in achieving the 100% clean energy target, with the appropriate mix of policies and guidance to enable developers to bring forward low energy, and more sustainable developments. Again this hasn't happened

The Labour administration needs to seriously up its game and move forward with clear, achievable targets to achieve the ambitious climate change goals this City needs and to work with local partners and central Government to make the changes our young people are demanding. We need to update the Newcastle declaration on Climate Change with a pledge to make Newcastle carbon neutral by 2030. Yes we need central Government to do more, but there's a lot we can achieve across the City and the region. Council should commit to ending investment in fossil fuels within 3 years.

Following the Council meeting, the Liberal Democrats have suggested that the City's twin towns and the Newcastles of the World should be informed of the Council's unanimous decision to devclare a Climate Emergency in the City.