Let’s take real steps to deal with climate change and poor air

The fact that we do not see air pollution like this is Liverpool does not mean it doesn’t exist. In fact Liverpool is one of the poorest cities in Europe for air pollution

No-one in their right mind (so that excludes the President of the USA) should be in doubt whatever of the importance of tackling Climate Change and the increasingly poor quality of the air we breathe.

In the medium to long term climate change will kill our planet and in the short term the impacts on weather systems is wreaking damage across the World. In the here and now poor air quality is seriously damaging our health and leading to deaths particularly of children and the elderly. Liverpool is not immune from these things and in fact our air quality is amongst the poorest of any City in the UK.

To deal with this we need to be working at every level from what we do in our own homes and travelling to what we can do as communities, then Council and then Governments and then continental governments such as the EU and then what we do at global level through the UN and WHO and similar bodies.

At the Council meeting in November my colleague Liz Makinson and I moved the following motion which was voted down and referred to a committee where there was little enthusiasm for action:

“Council notes with concern that leading climate change scientists have warned that we have only 15 years to change the way that we do things if we are to avoid catastrophic consequences for our World.

It believes that the Council needs to lead the way on this within the City by adopting a ‘Whole Council Approach’ to climate change looking at the way we develop our City; provide transport; develop housing; and educate our school and university students.

Accordingly, it requests the Mayor to look at the possibility of establishing a ‘Climate Change Commission’ with representatives from the Council; Universities and business communities as well as environmental campaigners to consider such a whole council approach.

In the meantime, recognising the importance of this issue to the future of our young people it resolves:

1.    To ask all schools to hold a school’s assembly on this issue and ask their schools councils to consider steps that schools and parents could take to reduce climate change in their everyday actions; and

2.    Requests both houses of the Schools Parliament to present proposals to the City Council about steps we could all take to resolve this issue”.

We believe that it is important that the Council should together consider what a Council can in theory to about these issues; what Liverpool Council should specifically do and then come up with a costed and implementable programme of action. Interestingly the Mayor of Liverpool agrees with this approach and wants to establish an agreed set of parameters and then a full discussion in council whereby the Council can set priorities and actions into place.

Frankly what a council can do by itself is limited. What we could do across the City Region would be greater and more effective and what the Government could do if it so chose would have a huge impact. So there is a general agreement that we should work together and do what can be done in a practical, realistic and costed way.

Because that is the way that it should be done my Lib Dem colleagues and I had no problem in voting against the ill thought, half baked and impractical ideas contained in a Green Party amendment to the Council’s budget on Wednesday.

I will not go through them in detail but just look at 2 of them:

  1. £4 million funding to enable the establishment of a commercial scale operation removing carbon from the atmosphere. Where did the figure of £4 million come from? Is this anything like sufficient when other schemes being thought about are involving far, far higher costs? Is there agreement on carbon capture technology? Where would the carbon be stored? Who might the potential partners be?  None of this was contained in a report. It would take at least a year to frame and answer these questions so the money could not, in my opinion, be spent in this financial year.
  • £4.5 million installing renewable energy sources on all appropriate council property. Not a bad idea in itself but where did the £4.5 million figure come from? Is it a gross figure or net of available grants? Could all this be spent on council properties as we now own very few buildings? By the time we have sorted this out the financial year would be finished.

And that raises the last point. The Green Party tried to commit the council to a four-year programme. Don’t they really understand that this Council like every other has absolutely no idea how much it will have to spend next year. We have been told repeatedly that the Government is considering radical new funding proposals for local government which depend much on us raising our cash. We don’t know the details but the likelihood is that Liverpool will get even less money from central government in future especially as they are considering a very low weighting in the distribution formula for poverty.

Our budget next year might mean cutting everything which we are not legally obliged to and even there cutting back those legal obligations absolutely to the barest of minimums. To suggest or pretend that the Council could even at this stage promise a programme which takes us beyond this financial year is either grossly dishonest or displays a huge ignorance of the choppy seas in which SS Liverpool Council is perforce sailing.

Let’s get together over this. Let’s draw up a list of things that Liverpool Council; Liverpool Council and the People of Liverpool and Liverpool Council and the other councils in the City Region can actually do. Then let’s just gets on with them. Practical actions which involve the whole of our community at this time are far more important than uncosted and undeliverable waffle from a well-intentioned but hopelessly naïve group of people which appears to be the make-up of the Green Party in Liverpool.

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About richardkemp

Leader of the Liberal Democrats in Liverpool. Deputy Chair and Lib Dem Spokesperson on the LGA Community Wellbeing Board. Married to the lovely Cllr Erica Kemp CBE with three children and four grandchildren.
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