Somerset Green Party Councillors have produced A Green Climate Strategy to show how we propose to address the climate and ecological emergencies in Somerset.
Our Green strategy shows how to improve a joint climate strategy prepared by Somerset councils, which is too weak and lacks urgency. The joint Somerset strategy (see full version and summary) fails to show what will be needed to work towards carbon neutrality or how to work effectively towards this by 2030. The joint councils strategy also passes too much responsibility for achieving change to communities and individuals.
Action should have started earlier, following council climate emergency declarations in 2019. Although later than hoped, it is vital that more should follow once actions plans are adopted by Somerset councils in October and November 2020.
A Carbon Neutrality and Climate Resilience Action Plan for Somerset West and Taunton (SWT) could be improved, but is much better than the Somerset Strategy, and should allow a better start to effective climate action in our district.
The Council Strategy and Action Plans have been produced by officers who worked alongside Councillor working groups. I sat on both Somerset-wide and SWT groups and was able to have some influence on the plans, but had hoped for more.
I was the author of the Green Climate Strategy, which was produced and agreed with other Green Party Councillors around Somerset*.
A Green Recovery with Green Jobs
The Green Strategy calls for greater leadership, action and urgency from Government and our councils; as well as a green recovery from COVID, with more jobs in home insulation, renewable energy, transforming transport, restoring nature, reuse and recycling and healthier lifestyles.
Our strategy proposes detailed local targets and for the county and district councils to lead on projects that will make the changes needed, including: investment in local solar and wind power, more pedestrianisation, rolling out electric vehicle charging points in car parks, incentives to support public transport, cycling and walking, whole house retrofit programmes to install insulation and zero carbon heating in social and private housing, increased natural flood management, and pension funds no longer invested in fossil fuels. Many of these changes are in Council plans, but they are not going far enough or being progressed quickly enough.
Our Green Strategy also proposes a review to identify priorities for protecting assets and infrastructure from growing impacts of climate change, as well as carbon management plans for council operations and carbon budgets to monitor progress towards carbon neutrality by all sectors throughout Somerset.
Importantly, we wish to see greater communication and engagement with local communities and businesses, including support for projects such as e-car clubs, share shops, repair cafes and wild flower and tree planting.
Somerset’s Climate Emergency Strategy and a District Action Plan were adopted by Somerset West and Taunton Council on 26th October 2020. As can be seen on the council webcast, there was a lengthy debate prompted by two ammendments I proposed. The first to improve the joint strategy and have a cross-party steering group was lost by 30 votes to 23, but my second proposal to report on how SWT’s new climate budget will be allocated was carried by 26 votes to 25, despite opposition from the Executive.
Post updated on 7 November 2020
* Currently, there are 15 Green Party Councillors on Principal Councils in Somerset (Mendip – 10, Somerset West and Taunton – 2, Somerset County – 2, and South Somerset – 1) and many more on town and parish councils.
Links to Full Reports and Appendices
Action is Urgent
The following presentations by leading climate scientists show why we urgently need effective climate action.
Professor Johan Rockström, Director of the Stockholm Resilience Centre, on the Hothouse Earth scenario at a World Economic Forum meeting in 2019. Johan gives a quick run through of threats from global heating and some positive responses (4 minutes).
Professor Tim Lenton, University of Exeter on tipping positive change to avoid climate tipping points – September 2020. Tim’s wide-ranging presentation covers the climate emergency, dangers from tipping points, social changes to address the crisis and new coalitions for international action (46 minutes). Tim gave a talk in Wivey in 2016.