OPINION

How can our city avert the climate crisis? Residents have the answer

Just last week research placed North Street as the third worst for air pollution in the country.

When evidence already tells us air pollution knocks almost three years off average life expectancy, this must be a call to action.

The weather events of this year should warn us that our world is changing: earlier in the year, red alert floods saw parts of Wales and Worcestershire under water, echoed in the scenes of climate breakdown over recent weeks in the Arctic Circle where all records have been broken by the high temperatures.

The evidence is clear: without really serious action, we are hurling towards global temperatures that by 2030 could provoke a widespread climate crisis.

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And we have to find ways that will help us take the urgent action needed to tackle the environmental crisis.

Just one of those is involving and empowering our residents who tell us with their lived experience how we tackle such enormous issues. It’s known as a “climate assembly”.

Why 2030? It’s the year the United Nations predicts if we haven’t taken enough action will see the world and the population suffer so detrimentally that it will have lasting harmful damage.

This week a random selection of residents in our city will receive a letter from Brighton and Hove City Council inviting them to the city’s first Climate Assembly.

If you are one of those, respond and you may be shortlisted to take part with 50 others.

This new event will bring together a diverse range of residents from all walks of life.

They will respond to information and come up with proposals for how they think our city can tackle the issue of toxic emissions.

With a whole third of those emissions from transport, the assembly will discuss this issue first.

We only have to look at the debate about Madeira Drive to see that everyone has an opinion.

The council is working with specialist organisations to ensure a diverse range of people can access the assembly and there are FAQs (frequently asked questions) explaining the process on the council’s website.

Importantly, anyone without access to a computer or mobile phone will be offered the support to ensure all communities can take part.

This said, knowledge is power – and if we know we will reach a tipping point by the year 2030, we need to take the strongest action possible before then.

In 2018 a Green proposal led to the council joining many other cities across the country in declaring a climate emergency to reduce the city’s toxic emissions by 2030.

I’m pleased to say that locally, councillors of all parties have committed to taking this forward.

Work across the political spectrum is allowing us to discover ways our city can face the challenges ahead.

Further the Climate Assembly forms part of a shared pledge between Labour and Green councillors to take the strongest action possible to tackle the climate crisis.

The collected thoughts of residents in the Climate Assembly will be placed at the very heart of the council’s decision-making.

Because, as Greens have said before, politicians are not the only voices and this extraordinary period requires us to work collaboratively.

There can be no denying that tackling the climate emergency will mean changes, in fact it already has.

But as the covid-19 crisis has made clear, the way we treat our environment has a serious impact on our own quality of life and, of course, on our health.

So many of the ways we tackle the climate crisis are also ways we help recover from the pandemic and make our city a fairer place to live.

With something like the mass insulation of homes, we drive down fuel bills for residents, we create skilled jobs and apprenticeships, we create warm homes as well as playing our part in reducing our carbon footprint.

Likewise, if we encourage more walking and cycling, we help improve air quality, we take steps to keep ourselves healthy and we make our streets safer. A win for Brighton and Hove’s residents as well as the planet.

The covid-19 restrictions mean for everyone’s safety the event will be online but the conversation certainly doesn’t start and end here.

To avoid a climate crisis and ensure a fair and sustainable recovery from the pandemic, we welcome the thoughts and views of all residents as we continue to lead the council through these incredibly challenging times.

You can email the council at carbon2030@brighton-hove.gov.uk.

And if you receive a letter from the council this week inviting you to participate, we encourage you to take your seat at the climate assembly and help shape the future of our city.

With a climate crisis upon us, we cannot miss a single opportunity to create a fairer and more environmentally sustainable future.

Councillor Phélim Mac Cafferty is the Green leader of Brighton and Hove City Council.

  1. Rolivan Reply

    What have you done since 2010 to eradicate the pollution problem in North St,absolutely nothing.
    Climate change has been happening since time on earth began.We can do our bit but Countries like China and India pour out so much that whatever we do will never compensate.

  2. Peter Challis Reply

    The simple answer to Phelim’s question is that the city cannot avoid a climate crisis.

    The council might have declared a “climate emergency”, but what does this mean? The council also pledged to make the city carbon neutral by 2030, but what does that really mean? What is in scope, and how will this be measured? In Phelim’s piece he now only commits to “reduce toxic emissions by 2030” – what happened to the pledge?

    Regarding the “climate crisis”, as its just one atmosphere then local changes are at most noble gestures. We need major national, and ideally international, agreed strategic changes funded by governments, rather than local authorities just having initiatives they believe might help, working in isolation, and possibly making the situation worse.

    Brighton and Hove represents at most 0.01% of global CO2 emissions, and transport is about 28% of that. Transport is the only topic that the city climate assembly will be looking at initially, so what about the remaining 72% including sources such as heating and businesses?

    For each of the schemes the council needs to identify what the predicted carbon savings will be and have measurements in place to verify achievement. Or will more schemes of undefined, and dubious, benefit be introduced just using “2030 carbon neutrality” as the reason?

    For example, how much has closing Madeira Drive, and putting in “temporary” cycle lanes on the A270, reduced or increased global and local CO2 emissions, if we take into account increases caused by congestion, other road users taking diversions, or now driving to other towns to avoid the queues?

    What can the city do to lower overall carbon emissions? What about park-and-ride (or parkways) on the outskirts linked to zero carbon rapid transit into the city centres?

    And remember the climate crisis is about CO2 – it is not about “toxic emissions” from local NOx issues (by the Clock Tower where there are few cars) or exhaust particulates, even though Phelim confuses the terms. And It is also not about using weed killers on pavements, or single use plastics.

    And with regards to the “Climate Assembly”, it seems the council has already decided what it wants to do to reduce emissions, and is pushing pro-cycling anti-motorist schemes across the city without reference to stakeholders, road users, and residents.

    It is worrying that our assembly will have “an advisory board of 15 volunteer experts and activists” and that speakers will include “policy experts, campaigners, and local stakeholders”. Where are the real qualified experts in transport, energy, environment, and economics? Who are the “stakeholders” and who represents other road users such as
    residents, the disabled, commuters, local businesses, and tradesmen?
    It is enlightening to see that in Adur and Worthing they are also having a climate assembly where they will listen to “expert speakers” to respond to the questions:

    How can we in Adur and Worthing collectively tackle climate
    change and support our places to thrive? What does this mean
    for the way we live and our local environment?”

    Why doesn’t our city’s climate assembly discuss the economic impacts the wider options and needs to deal with the climate crisis? Or do they not want residents to be involved in such discussions?

  3. Random Commentor Reply

    North Street? Isn’t that the road where they moved the bus stops out ionto the road to put plant pots on the pavement instead? Now buses must all queue up instead of pulling in to pick up \ drop off. Adding to the fumes.

    Already banned the cars on that section.

    Now just trying to remember which party brought that change in. They are all as barmy as each other with these improvements.

    • Christopher Hawtree Reply

      But don’t ‘buses turn off their engines when stopped?

      I find North Street best avoided (though I am sometimes tempted to look at notebooks in Tiger).

      http://www.christopherhawtree.com

      • Random Commentor Reply

        A stopped bus may be turning off their engine when loading passengers, but what about the busses behind it trying to get past? In the previous layout of real bus stops there used to be space for busses to go round each other and keep moving.

        • Christopher Hawtree Reply

          I have been busy, and so in my previous reply I forgot to pun, with reference to notebooks in Tiger, upon stationery and stationary!

          Meanwhile, I think that ‘buses now turn off their engines when stationary, whether in traffic or at a ‘bus stop (which makes it easier for passengers to write in their stationery).

          All that said, I have always thought that we need to look at ‘buses being channelled through a few streets. I should like to see some circular routes.

          • Rolivan

            Christopher I have said this for years,why do so many buses have to go up and down North St and along Western Rd.Old Steine used to be a Terminus and perhaps even Palmeira Sq.
            More should go along the Seafront and up Grand Ave.If the current exercise is to be continued then more people should be given the opportunity to get off a bus at the Bottom of West st and get into Churchill Sq and Western Rd, that way there perhaps wouldn’t be so many half empty buses traversing one of the most polluted thoroughfares in England.

      • Peter Challis Reply

        Some hybrids (mainly no. 7s) do switch over to batteries when stationary, but then have to restart their engines when they move off. There are some larger battery hybrids (mainly no. 5/5a/5b) that charge their batteries outside the ULEZ and then run off batteries in the city centre. As such, from a global carbon perspective they probably offer little benefit.

        Where they do help is with the NOx levels, which are an issue by the clock tower and other locations on the city.

        Both of the still use diesel engines generating CO2 and so still add to global warming. Bus companies companies need to switch to all battery, or hydrogen, or some form of continuous electric traction (such as trams).

        All other buses (excluding the Big Lemon battery and cooking oil units) are still diesel only, but NOx levels have reduced with the later Euro standard engines.

        The old 5b (non-blue coloured) in the photo is diesel only.

        Go Ahead have committed to becoming carbon neutral by 2035.

        Perhaps you should try traveling on buses more often – BTW there is also a Flying Tiger Copenhagen in Churchill Square.

  4. Billy Reply

    Is Mr Mac Cafferty’s article an attempt to justify the mess the council are making of the transport structure in our city?
    Our roads are gridlocked with new pollution hotpots and buses are having to be diverted from their usual routes. Residents are having a longer commute to work and several of us have lost parking places we relied on at a time when there is often no other way of carrying on our businesses or getting to work.
    Tourists are being discouraged from coming to the city – a seaside resort where a large part of the local economy relies on visitors and shoppers.
    If you don’t want tourists to arrive by car then where are the park and ride schemes and where are the alternative transport arrangements?
    As much as I personally love cycle lanes, there was no need to close roads where there was no cycling need, and certainly no need to duplicate the seafront cycle lane when that meant slowing up the one remaining cross city route for cars and vehicles on essentials journeys.
    Whilst it seems like a good idea that we lead the way on trying to reduce carbon emissions in the city it’s worth remembering that we cannot live our lives by chasing just one aim because these decisions have consequences on other areas of our lives. The goal is not just to tick another strategy box but to run the city more efficiently for the benefit of residents and visitors.
    We need to look at the wider picture and to keep the local economy going at a time when the UK faces the biggest recession in living memory. Without jobs there is no food on the table and less taxes to pay for for public services.
    It’s also worth adding that what we do in Brighton is a drop in the ocean when you think what actually needs to be done worldwide, because we as a city are not the main polluters. We can surely do our bit without these endless own goals and acts of self harm?
    One famous example is how when North Street was redeveloped to have wider pavements and to be car-free, they moved all the bus stops so that the buses can no longer pass each other when one stops to pick up new passengers. And it’s basic stupidity like this that created the worst pollution hotspot in town and slowed up the bus service – which is the one bit of public transport we have.
    This stupidity is currently being repeated all along our seafront and all the council’s own strategy goals are being compromised simply by the lame way in which it is being done.
    Do I sound angry? Well, yes I am.

  5. rob shepherd Reply

    Phelim wrote, Just last week research placed North Street as the third worst for air pollution in the country.

    This car free zone with its low emissions buses is a problem created by having policies to promote buses without actions to control the congestion they can cause.

    Read the 2018 Brighton Bus Network Bus Review (please Phelim!) And DfT TA79/99 … the problem should have been anticipated, it is not complicated and it is solvable …. but not if you govern with slogans rather than facts.

    I expect Phelim to be much better than Nancy … but that is not setting the barrier very high. The City missed its Transport Carbon Emissions targets (3.5% per annum, Kyoto-Nottingham as measured by DEFRA BEIS) spectacularly under all parties, so until the Greens ask why, then Zero by 2030 is just a sick joke.

  6. Paul J Williams Reply

    Why does it seem only STUDENT households in the city are being invited to take part in this Climate Assembly and offered £250 per head to attend??? My partner is a student property manager and keeps finding these invitations in empty student properties but no one we know has received one among permanent residents.
    The biggest pollution in this city is the corruption. It stinks!
    De-power the Greens and their toxic mismanagement of our finances to create more pollution and gridlock and close businesses NOW.

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