Find out in this long read article what the new Lib Dem administration has already done in its fight against the climate emergency.
In March 2019, B&NES Council passed a cross-party motion declaring a Climate Emergency, setting the ambitious target of becoming carbon neutral across all functions by 2030. The Council also resolved to sign up to the UK100 pledge, acknowledging their responsibility to secure a future for communities faced with the challenge of a changing climate. This was a momentous first step in tackling the climate crisis.
Lib Dem councillor Rob Appleyard (Lambridge) said at the time, “We want to see decisive action on Climate Change. This motion is partly about the Council’s own carbon footprint but also includes the goal of inspiring and enabling others to act.”
On the 3rd May, the Lib Dems won control of B&NES Council on a manifesto pledging immediate action against the climate emergency. The manifesto included promises to:
- Help people get around by walking, cycling and public transport as the alternative to the use of private vehicles.
- Make our housing stock amongst the greenest in the UK
- Reduce or eliminate carbon emissions in all the Council’s own actions and decisions.
- Use and adapt our planning policies to push low carbon developments throughout the district
- Enable residents and businesses to achieve low carbon in their own activities, through education and information.
The following is a list of everything Bath & NE Somerset Lib Dems have done since the start of our administration, over 100 days ago.
Placing the Climate Emergency at the heart of the council
On the 21st of May, Lib Dem Council Leader Dine Romero (Southdown) announced the new cabinet. This included, for the first time in the council’s history, members to focus exclusively on the Climate Emergency, reflecting the urgency with which we must secure carbon neutrality by 2030. Every decision the council makes will now be evaluated on the impact that it will have on our environment.
Walking School Buses
In early June, Councillor Jess David (Moorlands) led the first walking bus in Widcombe – a scheme designed to provide school children with a safe walking route to school, while also encouraging a healthier, eco-friendlier form of transportation to school.
Stop Shipping Our Waste Overseas
On June 24th, the West of England waste partnership - B&NES and a number of other councils - announced that waste will no longer be sent overseas to be incinerated, instead incinerating it locally in Avonmouth. This will cut the carbon cost of shipping waste overseas, while also reducing the amount that goes to landfill. Almost 2/3 of landfill waste is biodegradable, and decomposes to release Methane and Carbon Dioxide, both of which are greenhouse gases that are heating up our planet’s atmosphere. Instead, the waste will be processed in two ‘energy from waste’ plants, that can generate enough electricity to power over 127,000 homes. In the long-term, we are developing strategies to reduce waste and increase the amount we recycle, reducing the need for incineration altogether.
Opposing Airport Expansion
The Lib Dems believe that we should not be considering expanding an industry which is one of the leading contributors of carbon emissions. This is why, in early July, council cabinet members Sarah Warren and Tim Ball announced a meeting with members of the North Somerset Council to voice their opposition to the Bristol Airport Expansion. We believe that expanding the aviation industry goes against the commitment that both councils have made to tackling the Climate Emergency. Opposition to the Bristol Airport Expansion has been echoed across the local party, by both the MP for Bath, Wera Hobhouse and the Lib Dem prospective parliamentary candidate Nick Coates.
Wera, who is also the party’s spokesperson on climate change and transportation said: “The Lib Dems recognise that flying is a positive part of life in a globalised world but we also understand our moral duty not to expand an industry that is contributing to the climate crisis. We recognise the vital role that innovation will play in addressing the climate crisis. We therefore support the efforts of the aviation industry as they seek to develop new fuels and, if necessary, new designs of planes.”
Nick Coates also addressed the effects of expansion on the green belt: “The airport has failed to reduce the amount of car travel significantly and even the introduction of light rail to the airport from Bristol, which is essential, is expected to have a limited impact. Indeed the airport’s entire business model and financial success depends on income from car parking. Thus the increase in land take, much of which is from the green belt and over important wildlife habitats, will go primarily to more car parking.” Nick also has concerns on increased traffic through North East Somerset and the increasing noise pollution that will inevitably follow from more frequent flights.
The Bath Climate Conference
On July 13th, Bath MP Wera Hobhouse hosted the first climate conference in Bath, an event aiming to empower Bath residents to take action. Speakers included Molly Scott Cato MEP, and Paul Allen, the Project Coordinator at Zero Carbon Bath, as well as local campaigners and national activists.
Paul Allen spoke of the power of local councils and grassroots activism in bringing about climate action: “We have everything we need to create a climate emergency plan. There is a cultural shift happening now. Leadership is coming not from the national level but from the local levels. Local councils and groups are taking the lead.”
WECA Declares Climate Emergency
Only a few days later, the West of England Combined Authority (WECA) declared a climate emergency in recognition to the global crisis, becoming the fourth Combined Authority in the country to do so. Lib Dem Council Leader Dine Romero was instrumental in bringing about this declaration – encouraging her colleagues to follow in the footsteps of its constituent authorities and take steps to tackle the climate emergency.
Empowering Businesses & Individuals
In early August, to help empower individuals and local businesses, the B&NES Council published a list of actions that can be made to reduce individual carbon footprints at a local level. While individual actions are not enough to prevent a climate crisis, they will help mitigate climate change while larger, systematic changes are put in place. ( The suggested actions can be found at - (https://www.bathnes.gov.uk/latestnews/climate-emergency-web-update)
The changes included:
- Avoid food waste, buying locally and seasonally where possible
- Avoid palm oil in processed foods.
- Eliminate single use plastics
- Be more economical with purchases; make products last
- Get home energy advice from the Council’s Energy at Home helpline.
- Walk, cycle or use public transport in place of private vehicles.
- Talk to friends, neighbours and family; engage with the local community to discuss ideas on local solutions to the threats we face.
Closing down Milsom Street to cars
Looking forward, on September 21st Milsom Street will be closed to cars for an entire weekend, and stalls will be set up to promote local businesses. This weekend coincides with World Car Free day on Sunday 22nd, and European Mobility week, a campaign to promote sustainable travel across Europe. The event will help to advocate sustainable travel across B&NES and raise awareness of the Climate Emergency, while simultaneously helping the Lib Dem’s clean air initiative.
Our Climate Action Plan
This October, at a meeting of the full council, a long-term climate action plan will be presented to councillors. This plan has been in development since spring, and will identify priorities for carbon reduction in B&NES to reach its ambitious 2030 target. It will include community conversations and a proposal for the use of citizens’ assemblies.
A spokesperson for Bath & NE Somerset Liberal Democrats said:
“Since taking over the local council in May, we have put down ambitious place markers in our efforts to tackle the climate emergency.
“We have undertaken experiments with walking school buses and the planned weekend closure of Milsom Street. We have led conversations at Bath’s climate conference and in vocalising our opposition against the Bristol Airport expansion. And we have taken concrete steps to reduce the council’s impact on the environment by no longer sending waste overseas and reducing landfill waste.
“Our actions have not been about regulating behaviour. We want to inspire and enable individuals to make sustainable choices for themselves. And the Lib Dem administration wants to make sure that we are leading by example in this regard.”
“But local people and councils can only do so much. Two years ago, the Conservative government sold off The Green Investment Bank, a Lib Dem initiative which brought in £10bn of private investment to fund renewable energy, energy efficiency and low-carbon projects between 2012-2017. The Conservative government also continues to support environmentally devastating fracking operations. These are not the actions of a government that is taking the climate emergency seriously.”
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