*Declaring A Climate Emergency
Frank Kennedy of Friends of the Earth responds to the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority’s stance on the Climate Emergency with FoE’s own Climate Action Plan for Metro Mayors.
The Liverpool City Region (LCR)’s Combined Authority aims to be zero-carbon by 2040. This is ten years more ambitious than national Government, but possibly ten years too late to prevent that extra 0.5-1.0C temperature rise that climate scientists have described as ‘the tipping point’.
Combined Authorities and Councils nationwide are declaring Climate Emergencies while promoting yet more high-carbon infrastructure. Merseyside is typical: green spaces gone or under threat, LJL Airport growth and a huge Port of Liverpool access road being backed by a combination of business interests, national and local government.
From a series of LCR ‘listening events’ held last year – one of them organised by Liverpool Friends of the Earth – transport and the environment emerged as local people’s main concerns.
So far, ‘Metro Mayor’ Steve Rotheram and his team have offered little detail about how zero carbon will be attained, beyond using hydrogen for transport, plus long-standing intentions to develop tidal power and increase wind energy from the Mersey estuary.
Mr Rotheram – or whoever might succeed him as Mayor – cannot single-handedly solve the climate and ecological emergency. But he does have some important powers, as well as a key role in providing a vision for the area.
Friends of the Earth has drawn up a ten-point plan for the region, addressing those areas where the LCR leadership has direct power and influence:
- All infrastructure plans, programmes and investment decisions must be compatible with the climate emergency, the city region’s carbon budget and carbon reduction pathway. A Paris-Agreement aligned Carbon Budget would allow LCR to emit 46mt of C02 up to 2100. “Business as usual” would use this all up in the next 7 years or so. Simply, exclude any development that increases greenhouse gas emissions!
- Citizens need to be involved, especially young people and vulnerable communities, in decision-making and action planning on climate change. The launch of the LCR Climate Partnership is welcome, but those most affected now or potentially affected (409 neighbourhoods identified as particularly vulnerable to surface flooding, for instance) are often least responsible for building up the crisis. They should have a say in, and scrutiny of, Mayoral plans.
- The Mayor should invest in green jobs, apprenticeships, and sustainable enterprise, making the green, circular economy (renewable energy, housing retrofit, sustainable transport, etc.) central to all investments and decisions.
- All new developments must be zero-carbon and existing homes brought up to high energy standards, ending fuel poverty. Retro-fitting existing housing: installing efficient insulation and replacing gas-fired boilers with eco-heating systems is crucial. At least 24,675 heat pumps need to be fitted every year in the LCR.
- Public transport use, cycling and walking must double this decade, cutting climate emissions and helping clean the air. Justice, social cohesion, and health issues overlap with climate factors here: half of the lowest 20% income group have no access to a car; the proportion of women without access is double that of men. At least ten Merseyside locations fail WHO air quality standards for nitrogen dioxide alone.
- The LCR needs to be powered by clean, renewable energy – keeping fossil fuels in the ground. Much can be sourced locally, e.g. offshore wind and tidal, bringing jobs and economic benefits. All publicly purchased power must be renewable.
- LCR should achieve ‘zero waste’ by 2030 without relying on landfill or incineration – aka ‘Energy from Waste’, which is more carbon-polluting than gas-fired power stations! At present, only 31% of LCR household waste is reused, recycled, or composted. The best local authorities in Wales achieve over 70%.
- Tree cover should double by 2045, with more trees and woods on council-owned land, and LCR urging government to fund local councils to do likewise. Mature trees and existing woodland must be robustly protected – reversing ongoing trends to sell green space and remove more ‘tree value’ than is planted.
- LCR needs to work with the local councils to ‘divest’ Local Government pension schemes from fossil fuels. These funds continue to fuel the climate crisis by investing in gas, oil, and coal companies – while people in some of the world’s poorest countries are having to flee their homes due to extreme weather. The Mayor should speak out on this.
- The operation of the Port of Liverpool needs to get to zero carbon as soon as possible, with the LCR leadership also demanding a non-road, sustainable solution to the movement of freight. The Mayor should lobby the Transport Secretary to cancel the A5036 Port of Liverpool Access road plans and present alternatives to the public. He should press Peel Ports to make its operations sustainable – cutting emissions from ships and haulage and halting the importation of biomass derived from distant forests.
To join the LCR Climate Action Group, email firstname.lastname@example.org
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