The local elections in Brighton and Hove delivered the clearest possible mandate for radical action on climate change.
Both Labour and the Greens made net-zero emissions prominent in their manifestos, set against the backdrop of Extinction Rebellion and the Schools’ Climate Strike.
Now that they are the two largest parties by some margin, they must deliver.
But while setting the goal of reaching net-zero emissions by 2030 is easy, achieving it will be infinitely harder.
Action will be needed in every facet of our lives – the way we work, play, move and eat – and we will need to rewire our economic model to fully appreciate social and environmental value.
No city on the planet has yet cracked the code, although places like Copenhagen, Malmo and Helsinki are likely closest.
While we already have many of the technologies needed to reach net-zero emissions, the necessary combination of leadership, regulations, policies, financial models, citizen engagement and behavioural change is still unclear.
So, with uncertainty on the roadmaps to 2030, where does our new Council start?
First, put party divisions aside. This emergency transcends politics.
Second, create an inclusive assembly for transformative action of climate change that harnesses the full force of the city’s ingenuity and has the teeth to really lead.
Third, offer Brighton and Hove as a place to experiment with innovation, not just with technologies, but with a whole range of measures designed to trigger massive changes.
We do not have time for single projects, but rather we need multiple activities all happening at once: on energy efficiency, procurement, transport, housing, heating, food, recycling, and so on.
These must be connected as a portfolio from which we can learn quickly about unlocking changes and adjust fast as we see what works. Fourth, make this innovative approach a virtue and key strategy for our city’s future – our main marketing approach.
Talk about the ‘Brighton and Hove model’ and invite the world’s most creative thinkers and businesses to see Brighton and Hove as the place to push boundaries and make their home. We already have the ‘green’ reputation, let’s dial it up to the maximum, and position the city as a pioneer of a new society.
While London is starting to style itself as the birthplace of the global climate revolution, (London Climate Week is in July), Brighton and Hove can be its smarter, nimbler and faster cousin.
Fifth, by voting for radical climate action, as citizens of Brighton and Hove we must take personal responsibility.
Everyone’s lives will be touched in profound ways over the next decade. Whether in changing our diets, finding alternatives to gas heating, excluding polluting vehicles from our city, or even starting to trade renewable energy between us.
While it might sound scary – any change at this scale is scary – the good news is that we will likely be healthier, happier, more prosperous and more inclusive as a result.
This is now the project of our generation, and one that our city is primed to lead. It will take every fibre of our courage and creativity. Ready?
Dr Tom Mitchell, a citizen of Brighton and Hove, leads Strategy for Climate-KIC, Europe’s largest public-private partnership focused on tackling climate change.
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