What has it achieved?
My motion required the Mayor of Bristol, Labour’s Marvis Rees, to publish a detailed decarbonisation plan. He did publish a report, which announced a new Environment & Sustainability Board and an Advisory Committee. It also set out some actions the Council can do, and identified areas where government action is needed. The report was a positive step and it even contained some of the Green Party’s proposals such as a carbon budget (an idea borrowed from Oslo).
However, it’s been far from smooth sailing and there are still hurdles to overcome. An understanding of the emergency still needs to be woven through all aspects of the Council’s work, and a thourough decarbonisation plan put in place. There has still been talk of doubling Bristol Airport’s capacity and plans to keep pensions invested in fossil fuels, even with calls from UNISON to divest. The downside is that even after a big declaration has been made, the real solution still lies in seeing it through. However, if organisations don’t follow their declaration with meaningful action, it does mean that we have the right grounds to stand on in order to constantly remind them: “This goes against the Climate Emergency you declared.”
What needs to happen next?
I believe that there are two things that we urgently need across the country. The first is a National Climate Emergency with the right power and authority to support it. We need ambitious deadlines, and consequences if they are not met. The second is a Green New Deal – a concept first discussed in the UK by Caroline Lucas which is finally getting mainstream traction. But we must make sure it facilitates concrete and community-led action, instead of simply being a top-down industrial strategy.
There are a suite of Green New Deal measures I’d like to see in Bristol, such as a congestion charge to discourage driving while funding better, cheaper, cleaner public transport. I also want to bring in skills training and bolstering local supply chains to accelerate retrofitting of homes, creating jobs while providing lower carbon places to live. And finally, I’d like an end to Council support for the proposed expansion of Bristol Airport. These are yet to be taken on board, but I won’t be giving up any time soon.