The Somerset Climate Strategy has been doing the rounds of the District Councils this month. A collaborative work which shares common goals and objectives is being passed council by council across the County. Today it passed through Sedgemoor District Council by 39 votes to 0 with 1 abstention (Axbridge’s Cllr Scott) . Sedgemoor Labour Leader Cllr Brian Smedley (Westover) supported the strategy but described it as ‘just the first step’. Other members spoke out at the meeting to start what now must be a wider and more radical consultation across the county. The Leaders speech is below.
Cllr Smedley said “Of course, we will be supporting this document -But recognising fully that it’s only a start As I reminded people at executive this morning , Noah didn’t save all those animals by just passing a motion at council, there was quite a lot of infrastructure that had to be put in place first. And to add to this point I would say ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day’ if it had been it would have probably fallen straight down -particularly if this government had appointed the contractors”
“So we are really at step 1 – getting this strategy supported…the problem is the final step isn’t as far away as people think. We need to be looking at the year 2030 and that’s not long…it took Leeds United 16 years to get back into the premiership! There’s a lot of work to be done in a short space of time and if we can keep a unity of purpose we can focus on a common goal. So we do welcome this and we will support it – but knowing that this means being open to new ideas and facing up to the fact that long held beliefs and practices might need to change ….now…not later..because at some stage there might not be a later”
Climate change needs to be at the top of all agendas
Cllr Smedley continued “At last nights Bridgwater Transport Forum we discussed it. People enthused about cycling, walking and public transport ..agreeing that was the future. People said electric vehicles might not be the answer for everyone – and hybrid vehicles certainly weren’t – what you give with one hand you take back with the other- a bit like the Chancellors statement today. People said that maybe we should focus on electrifying public transport and people should accept that the age of personally polluting the atmosphere from the comfort of your own private carbonator is over. Electric vehicles for busses, trains, trams, electric bikes, and delivery vehicles. A very important increase in public sector infrastructure – home delivery, shopping local- cutting down the need for private vehicles.
At Climate Change Forums people have said food production and land use is unsustainable as currently envisaged. People say Recycling yes -but its not the only answer – and certainly not when it comes to plastics- the all pervading creep of plastics across the world just has to stop at source and alternatives found. If we want a carbon negative world we have to rapidly move to alternative energy sources – wind, solar, water. We’re not just asking for a few electric charging points here and there and then we’re done”.
We Need a Green New Deal
“We need a Green New Deal – and despite paying lip service to this the chancellor in his spending review today didn’t put anything like enough new vision on the table to make people believe this-instead saying the economic crisis will only NOW start-which of course will come as a surprise to people whose future has been uncertain since the spring, it feels like we’re back to square one. Well, I say spending review – we can of course solve short term by borrowing – but not by a pay freeze on the hard working public sector that has pulled us through this crisis nor from the poor of the third world who we have a historic duty to help.
When we look at food production-it’s a worldwide issue -Amazonian rainforests are being destroyed and a line of replacement cherry trees up Hamp Green Rise..while welcome…wont stop that….but it’s a start.
We need simply to plant more than we’re destroying – and we start that by stopping destroying them…and so that’s a worldwide problem. Trees are crucial-here they can defend against flooding but everywhere they can act as a crop and they’re also a carbon sink so you protect the land with a major tree planting programme, that should be well up our agenda
So, we can pass this strategy -and must -but Government obviously has a key role in this – and one of them is providing local councils with the power and resources to implement strategies like this at the locallest level- that means genuinely recognising local government as THE community leader – as I think we all recognise could be the case with the impending unitary reforms…if they get that wrong…and they might…it may not be. ”
Remembering Rural Isolation
Cllr Hilary Bruce (Labour, Fairfax) added “I would like to highlight the issue of transport related to rural isolation, something that was touched on when this strategy went to Community Scrutiny. Improved provision for cycling and walking is important in towns and to connect towns and villages, however it is important to remember that our county has many rural communities that depend on their cars as they consider the public transport available to them to be inadequate and inefficient.
A friend of mine in one of these rural communities recently said to me that being without a car would be like cutting an artery. Improving public transport services is therefore essential, however reality means that public transport will not be suitable for all journeys and cars will still be needed. The aim has to be to reduce the number of cars on the road. If we are to change people’s behaviour there has to be a viable alternative to personal car ownership. That means looking at a combination of improved public transport and pooled transport schemes with shared cars, e-bikes and bikes. So it will be very important to work with parishes and community groups to find solutions that meet the needs of communities without leaving anyone behind.”
Labour Deputy Leader Cllr Kathy Pearce (Westover) said “I welcome the Strategy, which is wide ranging and ambitious. This should be a watershed moment in council activities and decision making. There will be challenges but it is vitally important that we carry the actions through. The fact that Sedgemoor is the 3rd most vulnerable area in the country at risk from coastal flooding caused by global warming should focus the minds of everyone.”
You can find the strategy here.