Last year Brighton and Hove News broke the news that since the 2019 local elections, Labour and the Greens have been running Brighton and Hove City Council according to an extensive written “coalition” agreement called the Memorandum of Understanding.
According to the text of the memorandum, several key policy areas are covered by this Labour-Green arrangement, one of which is climate change.
Following questions put to the leader of the council at last week’s council meeting, we know that this coalition arrangement is still operational, despite the recent changes in Labour leadership.
On this policy then, Greens and Labour must clearly be judged jointly on their performance to date. So how is this Labour-Green coalition on climate change doing?
Recent revelations at the council suggest the answer to this question is “not very well at all”.
Carbon (non) disclosure
For many years now the council has been part of the Carbon Disclosure Project.
The idea of the project is that cities across the world have their performance on climate change ranked according to consistent metrics and their performance published online.
The Disclosure Project says that its program has a number of advantages, from improved engagement to centralising data and tracking progress.
The project provides cities with all publicly available data, evaluates your response, benchmarks your performance against peers and finds areas of opportunity for your city. Sounds good so far.
The council pays to be a member and no doubt thought it was a good look to join. Here’s the problem – since 2015, the city has never had a result disclosed.
At the recent Carbon Neutral Member Working Group, a Labour-Green dominated council working group, I asked why the council had never disclosed its performance.
In response I was told that the council did not disclose its performance on climate change in the most recent year (2020) because it got a “D”.
So, after 10 years of Labour and the Greens running Brighton and Hove, including at least two years in this coalition on climate, this was the best our city could achieve – a D grade.
What a poor reflection this is on both the Greens and Labour and their policies in this city.
Coalition of secrets
While it is concerning enough that our city scored a D, what is even more concerning is that the Green-Labour Coalition on Climate Change apparently decided to keep this a secret from the public and not disclose its performance.
It is another example of how this coalition deal has cast a long shadow over democracy in the city over the past two years, shutting out the light and restricting scrutiny of important matters.
We know that according to text of their deal, Labour and Greens have been holding monthly meetings to discuss areas of policy listed in the Memorandum of Understanding such as climate change.
Was a decision made at one of these meetings to stop the council disclosing its poor climate change performance, where it was given a D?
We will never know, because the leaders of the Greens and Labour will not answer questions or publish minutes about what is discussed in these behind the scenes meetings, which are completely removed from the public domain.
It is difficult not to conclude that this “coalition in all but name” is an anti-democratic force in the city.
But following my intervention at the working group, the council has now committed to report publicly to the Carbon Disclosure Project every year and let its score be known, starting for 2021.
We must make sure that they stick to their word and disclose future results to the public so that we can scrutinise and assess how the Labour-Green coalition on climate change is performing.
After all, public money is being spent on the council’s membership of the Carbon Disclosure Project.
The revelation about the city’s climate change performance has come during the same month that the Green leader of the council has demanded “a seat at the table” at COP26, the United Nations’ international climate change conference being hosted in Glasgow this autumn.
With the city’s D performance and recent environmental disasters, such as the council severing Europe’s longest “Green Wall”, is he really in a position to be lecturing others about climate change?
Perhaps the leader of the council should get his own house in order first. A council that gets a D for its own performance is in no place to start lecturing the world on how to act on climate change.
Councillor Samer Bagaeen speaks for the Conservative group on climate change and the Carbon Neutral Member Working Group.