9 July 2020
Scale of climate challenge is far greater than indicated
Green & Liberal Democrat councillors have written to the Norwich City Council Labour cabinet members expressing deep concerns about the council’s Environmental Strategy and proposing a number of urgent actions. The text of the letter, sent on 8 July 2020, is below.
From: Cllr Denise Carlo, Cllr Judith Lubbock, Cllr Jamie Osborn
To: Cllr Kevin Maguire, Richard Willson
cc: Norwich City Council Cabinet, Stephen Evans (Norwich City Council Chief Executive), Cllr Sandra Bogelein, Cllr James Wright
8 July 2020
Dear Kevin and Richard,
Environmental Strategy Final Revision
As mentioned we are writing to explain why we were unable to endorse the Environmental Strategy at CEEEP on 1 July. We appreciate the large amount of work which has gone into its preparation and we do not doubt the City Council's commitment. We have welcomed the City Council's delivery of walking and cycling schemes, 20mph zones, a Norwich standard for council homes, new Council housing to Passivhaus standard, auctions for solar panels and other measures.
A large number of responses were submitted to the consultation on the Environmental Strategy, including lengthy ones by Green Party councillors, yet the Action Plan is substantially no different in light of those comments, with the exception of three minor additions (1.42 – 1.44) and a fourth, more substantial amendment to the target for the Council’s carbon management programme. We acknowledge the major effort which will be required for achieving a 100% reduction in operational carbon emissions, nonetheless, the statement, 'Norwich City Council plans to be net zero by 2030' only relates to the Council's own operations which contribute to less than 2% of Norwich's carbon emissions.
Our overall conclusion and concern is that the Action Plan does not address the scale of the climate change challenge shown in the accompanying scientific graphics. The Tyndall Centre graph (Fig. 5) shows an almost vertical drop in emissions necessary for Norwich between now and 2030 in order to achieve compliance with the Paris Agreement, amounting to a 12.7% cut year on year. The graph sits alongside the Action Plan and yet little relationship is shown between the two. The Action Plan doesn't make any reference to the 12.7% figure or acknowledge that the proposed measures as they stand will not meet the Tyndall challenge.
We had been hoping to see an action plan linked to quantified carbon reduction targets. We accept that it is difficult to specify how different actions would achieve quantifiable emissions reductions. However, there are methods available, including through the SCATTER pathways tool, which allows local authorities to identify the impact of particular actions and to aggregate those actions to identify their total projected level of emissions cuts. Even if the SCATTER pathways tool is not used, the SCATTER Inventory (Fig 6) indicates where the largest sources of emissions come from across the local authority population. For example, residential buildings and road transport combined form nearly 60% of CO2 emissions in Norwich, and one would therefore expect any action plan to show how those emissions would be addressed. It is however unclear how the council has applied either the SCATTER pathways or the SCATTER inventory tools to devise the Action Plan.
We are pleased to note an Action Plan commitment (at 1.25) to explore the SCATTER tool for use in Norwich. We hope that this means there will be a fuller application of SCATTER to establish a clear link between reduction targets and the scale of actions required to meet those targets. We hope that the application of SCATTER will result in additional actions, suggestions for which we would be happy to discuss (and some are indicated below).
The need for additional action is because the scale of challenge is even greater than indicated. The Strategy states that Norwich is on track to achieve 2 tonnes of C02 per person by 2023/24 and based on trajectory data the city will achieve carbon neutrality before 2050 (section 14). This figure does not factor in emissions from production, consumption, aviation and shipping. The latest climate change science points to the urgent need for radical cuts in carbon within the next decade by 2030. We dispute the claim that the Government’s target of net zero carbon by 2050 represents “highest possible ambition”: as has been evidenced by work such as the Zero Carbon Britain report and the efforts of many councils that have set carbon neutral targets for sooner than 2050, it is possible to aim for 2030.
Clearly, meeting even the 2050 target, let alone a more ambitious one, will be possible only if national and local governments grasp some difficult nettles which the Committee on Climate Change has repeatedly highlighted, notably the domestic and transport sectors. A pre-condition for helping citizens to change their behaviour is to 'tell the truth' and not under-state the local emissions burden and scale of challenge.
The Action Plan contains a lot of good action points but the means of accountability are not clear. Regrettably, it also includes several references to other strategies which will increase Norwich's carbon footprint, including:
We acknowledge that the Action Plan is intended to match the City Council's resources and capacity. In order to address the limited capacity of the Council's small environment team, the Green group proposed a dedicated climate change officer at Budget Council to supplement Richard's team, but this wasn't accepted. We hope that this idea can be reconsidered especially given the importance of supporting the green economy.
In relation to limited Council funds, we acknowledge this is a major constraint. At the same time, there is much that the City Council can do at the political level which would not cost anything financially. For example:
On a more positive, proactive note, some suggestions for what the council can do using its existing budgets and powers include:
The Green and Liberal Democrat Groups would be pleased to contribute to the Council's shift to net zero carbon in as short a timescale as possible by feeding in ideas, helping to deliver schemes and acting where necessary as a critical friend.
We look forward to continuing to work with you.
Cllrs Denise Carlo, Judith Lubbock, Jamie Osborn.