There are two issues which should dominate the political agenda in Liverpool for the next year – the environment and Europe and, because so much environmental policy comes from the EU, they are closely related. We have 12 years left to make fundamental changes to the way that we look after the City, the Country and the Planet to prevent irreversible change which could destroy all meaningful life on the planet.
That is why the Lib Dem Group at our Annual Group Meeting unanimously resolved to put the environment and climate change at the heart of what Lib Dems will be doing within the Council. We have begun to identify actions which every single committee and Cabinet Member should be undertaking. We will then press for actions by way of motions and questions in relevant places to ensure that the message of urgency which we feel is necessary permeates to all levels of the Council.
Already it has been agreed that Liverpool City Council will spend the whole of its Council meeting in July talking about the problems to the City created by climate change and ensuing global warming. Mayor Anderson and I have agreed that it is more important to have a comprehensive process for dealing with climate change and air quality issues and not just passing ‘flag waving’ motions. We hope that all councillors will sign up to this comprehensive and practical approach.
At the end of the process I want the Council to join with others in declaring a “Climate Change Emergency”, but I only want to do that when we have shown our own intent in doing the things within the City that we can do. Our declaration will have far more effect when we can add to it a list of actions that we are undertaking with a challenge to others to follow our example.
The Council’s officers are now preparing a report which will look at
- What the Government needs to do for Liverpool
Much of what needs to be done involves either national regulation or legislation. Given that much of our energy use is for transport or home consumption there are two areas which immediately come to mind;
- Improving building standards for new build properties and providing grants for the retrofitting of energy inefficient homes.
- Legislation to change dramatically the types of vehicles that we use with more small cars and less Chelsea tractors; and an increased reliance on electric vehicles or more energy efficient forms of public transport.
- 2. What the Government won’t stop us doing
We need to have strategies in place to:
- Wean people away from cars and onto public transport. This will mean the City Region Mayor doing more to develop the regulatory powers he has over bus routes.
- Planning policies which link employment opportunities to residential locations to reduce the need for travel
- Provide “No car” zones around schools where possible
- Red routes for main roads to reduce congestion leading to enhanced fuel consumption
- Develop industries which can take advantage of green technology
- Develop stronger relationships with our universities to spawn green products and services from the University research programmes
- Reduce or reuse waste food
- 3.What can be done immediately by the Council with the people of Liverpool
- Improve our recycling rates
- Involve schools and their pupils in recycling and allotments
- Use our Parks as ecology training centres as well as for leisure and recreation
- Encourage delivery companies and major retailers to reduce packaging
- Develop media campaigns to highlight climate change and practical actions that can be taken.
In Liverpool as elsewhere all this will mean hard decisions about transport and the need to move people from cars to public transport; about what we eat to reduce air miles and food waste; on what we buy; with a need to buy quality products rather than single use or short-term products.
This is not just a question for the Council but for every one of us. We can all do things to reduce our personal drain on the planet’s resources and part of the Council’s job will be to inform and educate people about the consequences to them and their children caused by the immediate and urgent effects of climate change. If we want to change the way that people behave, we can either confront them or work with them. Confrontation rarely changes attitudes and usually hardens them.
The Extinction Rebellion activity has highlighted real concerns but has not caused change in individual’s thinking. In Liverpool’s case we need to work with and persuade every resident; every business and every visitor to think about the whole environment which surrounds. I hope that in 5 years’ time we will look with amazement at the idea that we routinely used single use plastic beakers and cups. 10 years ago, we were consuming billions of plastic bags a year. Legislative change made that more expensive and we have found ways of taking our own bags and just preparing a bit more for the regular shopping session. This has saved huge amounts of pollution both by the making of the bags and the release of the bags into the water and land environments where they have been killing animals and causing widespread pollution.
But there is more good news. We have just had news that for the first time in hundreds of years there has been no coal consumed in the production of energy for 7 days. This has happened because Chris Huhne and Ed Davey when Secretary of State for Energy and Climate change brought about legislatives changes and incentives to move energy production to sustainable sources such as wind and water.
At the same time, they enabled a big push into solar power for home and industrial use and provided enhanced grants for insulation and business changes which reduced consumption. Sadly, these incentives have been taken away by the Tory Government but the big push enabled prices to come down and therefore the work goes on albeit at a reduced level.
So, it can be done. We can save the planet but there will be a financial cost to be met by all of us and a personal cost as we all have to do things differently.
I expect that in July our Council will lead our City into being the leading city for climate change action and mitigation. That certainly is the intention of the Liberal Democrat Group who will press for this on every occasion.
AND BY THE WAY – VOTE LIB DEM ON MAY 23rd – THE BEST WAY OF FIGHTING BREXIT IN THE NORTH WEST