The message in this week’s IPCC Report is clear. If global warming increases at the current rate, it is likely to reach 1.5˚C (above pre-industrial levels) between 2030 and 2052. UN Secretary General António Guterres has called the report’s findings a ‘code red for humanity’, with whole countries, communities, ecosystems at severe risk.
There is no doubt that we are facing catastrophic changes to life on earth if we do not act quickly and decisively to cut carbon emissions. We are already seeing the impacts of temperature rises on weather and on human and animal life, but what we do not yet really know is quite how much the impacts themselves, such as sea ice melting, will exacerbate and speed up the climate crisis.
Coming less than three months before COP26, the report’s findings should send out a stark warning to national governments. It does offer some hope though. If we take action – together, now – we can make a difference and steer ourselves away from climate catastrophe.
So, what part can and should a City Council like ours play in the change that is so clearly needed? What contribution should we be making?
Under Labour, Cambridge City Council have been cutting our own emissions as a council, have committed to being a net zero carbon council by 2030 and are working with local partners to try and make Cambridge a net zero carbon city by 2030. We declared a climate crisis in February 2019 and since then have embedded the need to tackle climate change in all areas of our work.
- making all new council housing developments – including Campkin Road, Buchan Street and the Meadows, Colville Road – gas free
- piloting Passivhaus houses in Fen Road (East Chesterton) and Ditton Walk (Abbey), as well as Passivhaus apartments in Aylesborough Close (Arbury)
- retrofitting council homes. We are nearing completion of our first phase of External Wall Insulation, loft insulation and Solar PV on Akeman Street and Bateson Road and have completed 59 properties to date this year, with a further 9 (68 total) to complete, at an approximate cost of £1.4 million. The second phase of up to a further 90 properties is due to start in September, at an estimated cost of £2.2 million
Open Spaces, Sustainable Food and Biodiversity
- signing up to the Glasgow Food and Climate Declaration (July 2021)
- providing over 100 hectares of new public open spaces, creating more nature reserves and doubling the number of wildflower meadows
- consulting on a new five-year biodiversity strategy
- working with partners on making Cambridge a herbicide-free city, and introducing a trial to make two city wards completely herbicide-free
- planting 1000s of new trees across the city
Planning and Transport
- putting climate change and biodiversity at the heart of the next local plan
- limiting water usage in the Design and Construction Supplementary Planning Document (SPD) to 110 litres per person per day
- including opportunities for food growing in the Design and Construction SPD
- devising a transport and movement strategy for the whole of Cambridge and for all residents living in and around our city, that will include tackling pollution, congestion, and provide more opportunities for walking, cycling, and public transport
- starting a 6 month trial of giving free advice to residents on options to reduce energy use in homes latter this year
- starting a trial of electric community cars
Communities and Culture
- invested in solar PV panels at 11 of our major buildings, including three swimming pools, the Guildhall and the Crematorium
- introduced a solar thermal system at Abbey Pool
- won a £1.7 million bid to do more works at Parkside and Abbey Pools which will save more than 440 tonnes of carbon each year – reducing their carbon emissions by 30% (and the council’s overall emissions by 7.7%)
- powering the new Meadows Centre with air source heat pumps
Environment, Recycling and Climate Change
- publishing a new five-year Climate Change Strategy and Carbon Management Plan (2021) with the aim of reducing the council’s direct carbon emissions
- replacing city council vehicles with electric vehicles as the default option
- making our corporate buildings more energy efficient, including making sure 100% of their power comes from renewable sources
- trialling food waste collections in North Cambridge, and running campaigns to reduce waste and increase recycling
- ensuring that the council has no investments in fossil fuel companies
Deputy Leader of the Council, Cllr Anna Smith, in responding to the challenge set by the IPCC report, said;
“The publication of the IPCC report has set us all a challenge – and rightly so. It’s clear that we all need to work together to make a change. There is no other option.
“The City Council has already made good progress towards meeting the challenge. This list is just an indication of what we’ve achieved. There’s so much excellent work happening already within the city, and I want to thank all our councillors and officers for leading on this.
“Of course, there’s also much more to do as the horrendous weather events of the last few weeks have emphasised. Tackling poverty and addressing the climate emergency go hand-in-hand and we will continue to fight as hard as we can to do both these things.”
Cllr Rosy Moore, Executive Councillor for Environment, Climate Change and City Centre, called for more effort and investment from national government to help councils like Cambridge do the work that’s needed;
“We all need to do what we can to reduce our own carbon footprints. However, we can’t do it alone. We desperately need government to update our out-of-date legislation and to help fund the necessary changes such as retrofitting buildings, upgrading the national grid and greening transport infrastructure. Unfortunately, Boris Johnson has consistently reacted slowly to the Covid crisis, only making difficult decisions when he has been forced to, so it’s hard to imagine that he will respond decisively and adequately to this report.
“The eyes of the world will be on COP26 this autumn. Let’s make sure we send delegates a clear message, and keep up the pressure on governments to act now, while we still can make a change.”