Petition - We call for urgency on our climate emergency
Report of the Cabinet Member Clean and Green Environment
The petition organiser, Yolande Booyse, presented the petition to members.
She explained that the petition had collected 750 signatures expressing concern over climate change and demanding real action. She added that the next crisis after Covid-19 would be the climate, and our approach to tackling this needed to change. The post-Covid world would offer an opportunity to leverage momentum, and both on a national and global scale, financially supporting green economies was a real possibility. Attempting to continue ‘business as usual’ was no longer appropriate, so the council should rethink its response to a carbon neutral pledge. She asked members to use the debate to address Cheltenham residents about how Covid-19 had changed their climate change response, including updating them on the progress of appointing a dedicated Cabinet Member and dedicated team for climate change.
The Cabinet Member Corporate Services and thanked the organiser for her presentation. He stressed that community support would be an essential part of tackling the council’s ambitious climate change targets, and welcomed the petition for highlighting the growing support within the town for reducing their carbon footprint.
He reported that the Executive Director People and Change, Darren Knight, and Director of Environment, Mike Redman, had recently met with local groups to discuss the council’s plans going forward and boost community involvement. The ‘Carbon Neutral Cheltenham – Leadership Through Stewardship’ report brought before Council last October laid out a roadmap of actions needed to reduce the town’s net carbon footprint to 0 by 2030. He acknowledged that this was a challenging deadline, twenty years ahead of central government’s goal of 2050, and meaningful steps must be taken in order to achieve it.
He added that the impact of Covid-19 on climate policy could not be overstated, as it had significantly affected the council’s finances, but it had not prevented important projects going forward, while the shift to remote working had changed commuting patterns in the borough. He stressed that the council was doing all it could, and remained committed to the pledge of going carbon neutral by 2030.
One member cited climate change as the key problem faced by the world at the moment, alongside Covid-19. She praised the council’s continuous climate change projects, as well as the work that went on quietly in the background to make a difference and keep people safe.
One member noted that the sentiment behind the petition was likely shared by the majority of people in the town, and indeed across the country. He stressed that community involvement was key, and endorsed the inclusion of partners and community groups in the process.
One member acknowledged that alleviating the climate crisis was a long and difficult road, but the council’s progress was good. He suggested that the council could declare areas outside all schools in the borough as ‘no idling’ zones, in order to improve air quality for schoolchildren. This could be enforced by council officers and supported by clear posters, and could then be widened to include more of the borough if successful. The Cabinet Member responded that he would be happy to accept this, and suggested that they explore the topic in more detail to work out the most effective solution. One member noted that the county council was working on a similar program.
One member asked for clarification about the size of Cheltenham’s Air Quality Management Area. The Director of Planning responded that the AQMA previously covered the whole borough, but had been condensed to cover the inner ring road area between St George’s Road and Gloucester Road.
One member noted that many local authorities were seeking to get climate change back on the agenda as part of their Covid-19 recovery strategies, citing Oxford City Council’s plan to ban petrol cars from the city centre by 2030. He warned against diluting policy due to the council’s financial difficulties, suggesting that failing to act on climate change would be far more expensive in the long run.
The actions which the authority has taken to date and those proposed, as set out in Section 3 be noted.