2 February 2020

East Sussex Greens respond to Climate Emergency declaration

 

Response for Climate petition presentation 20 Jan

 

Time is moving fast and so I am not going to waste time arguing over our difference in ambition on  timescales to fight the cllmate emergency. The UK is lagging behind on its commitments anyway, so a huge acceleration of effort is needed even to reach the 2050 target.

 

I am most concerned by the lack of urgency in your response. The answers are limited, based very much on the status quo - and do not attempt provide a clear vision of a transformed future.

 

There is no mention of an East Sussex wide carbon reduction pathway and the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research’s work on regional budgets shows that East Sussex needs to reduce carbon emissions by 13% a year starting now to make its fair contribution to even the 2050 target.

This petition had signatures gathered by green parties across East Sussex, from the people of our county. The change required will be a huge task, we need to harness the energy of people across the county developing new creative ideas and ways of working together

 

In the context of an emergency it is absolutely imperative that every spending decision, old and new, has its carbon impact measured. In 2020, all policy is climate policy. The carbon impact of every policy should be published alongside the annual budget in the form of a ‘carbon impact account’.

 

As an example, over 70% of the county budget is planned to be spent on Children's Services and Adult Social Care. This is a huge budget that could to be used to influence spending decisions on everything from

food provided, heating and insulation of buildings, to, staff travel,  and schools curriculum focus etc, supporting the transition to a zero carbon future.

 

None of this has been referred to in your reply and highlights how essential it is to embed new thinking across all departments including  for example, your local procurement spend which currently has a goal of 54%. This could be much higher, Lancashire is now at over 79%.

 

I note that the wording of the motion that you passed states that you support the aims and implementation of the UN Sustainable Development Goals and that this also aligns with the strands of the East Sussex Environment Board strategy which focuses on natural capital, climate change, air quality and water.

 

A commitment to implementing the sustainable development goals implies some joined up thinking about land, transport, nature, clean air and water and well-being, the circular economy and clean energy.

 

There is no sense of how you are going to create a conversation across all the different departments, transport, planning, public health and children’s services to name a few.

 

You mention the aims of the East Sussex Environment Board strategy. You state that it includes the environmental regulators, the two universities, and representatives of land managers, farmers, local authorities and businesses but no names are given.

 

At the very least, the minutes and agenda of this board should be publicly available. There should also be community representatives on this board such as members of the South East Climate Alliance who are doing an excellent job of coordinating grass roots activities across the south east. Why not have youth cabinet members? In fact a big gap in your whole response is the people of East Sussex, local citizens’ assemblies across the county would have a big impact in broadening the debate about how we transition to a net zero carbon economy which is going to require a massive behavioural change by everyone in society. What is being done through Skills East Sussex (SES, the local employment and skills board) to ensure our young people have the skills required for the jobs of the future?

 

The Natural Capital Investment Strategy needs to be paired with a commitment to the principles outlined in the Wildlife Trust’s Nature Recovery Network that puts space for nature at the heart of our planning systems.

 

There are plans to build over 20,000 new homes in East Sussex over the next ten years.  Siting of these new homes should start from the premise that nature must come first and that housing is designed into those bioregions in a way that enhances biodiversity and people’s access to nature. This concept needs to be integrated into future transport and spatial plans for East Sussex.

The danger of a natural capital approach is that it implies that a monetary value can be applied to nature,  so one new tree is of equal value to one lost in ancient woodland, which of course has multiple benefits.

 

A simple and low cost way of creating space for nature would be to rewild road verges, cutting down on mowing regime and banning use of pesticides.

 

The commitment to revise the local transport plan needs to takes note of the decades-worth of extensive evidence that road-building actually causes an increase in congestion. Yet the ESCC response to the Transport for South East draft strategy supports the short term continuation of the predict and provide concept in order to justify spending on more roads. And there is little commitment to public transport and active travel.

 

A sense of the county council’s current priorities can be seen in the fact that between 2014 – 2020,  spending on one road (the Bexhill link road) dwarfed other spending by  a factor of almost three.  £1 billion pounds compared to £380 million for all other infrastructure and skills spending  across East Sussex. The low carbon access fund was only £3.8 million for comparison.  Priorities have to change.

 

Transport is already over one third of carbon emissions in East Sussex yet recently over three million pounds was raided from the walking and cycling budget for Eastbourne, Bexhill and Hastings to pay for an overspend on new roads. 60 % of local residents are obese, public health needs to be considered within transport policy.  For example a recent East Sussex Community survey about health and wellbeing, does not ask anything about the climate, nature, or cycling and walking, yet these all have the potential to impact powerfully on our health.

 

On the circular economy and waste you mention waiting for the government’s environment strategy. Just a few miles down the road, Brighton and Hove are already committing to a circular economy without waiting for the government to act. Why not follow their lead?

 

Finally on energy,The Tri LEP energy strategy that covers East Sussex mentions using pension funds to finance many of the new renewable energy projects. What a wonderful opportunity to move fossil fuel investments into locally owned energy supply projects that would benefit pension fund holders and local people alike unlike your current refusal to even consider asking your fund managers to  evaluate whether your pension fund could  successfully go fossil free. This would be a huge and cost free signal of your serious intention to actively tackle the climate emergency.

 

28 January 2020

Julia Hilton

On behalf of

Hastings Green Party

Lewes Green Party

Rother Green Party

Wealden Green Party

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 






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