'How Sheffield parties stand when it comes to climate change' - our environmental columnist

The local elections are on May 6, and you have three votes.

Friday, 2nd April 2021, 9:47 am
Greener travel needs to be a focus in Sheffield

One for the referendum, where you will be asked if you want the council to continue with its “strong leader” model where ten cabinet members make the decisions or change to a democratic committee system that involves all elected councillors. The second is to elect a police and crime commissioner.

The third is to elect one of the three councillors that represent your ward. When elected they serve a four-year term. This is a particularly important election as it is possible there will be a new administration in the Town Hall. There are 84 councillors. Currently, 45 are Labour, 26 Liberal Democrats eight Green Party, one independent and four seats are vacant.

What are the parties promising to do about the massive threats we face in the climate and ecological emergencies?

Sheffield's incinerator

The Labour administration declared a climate emergency in 2019 following pressure from Extinction Rebellion and green groups.Since then they have been slow to act, but they have commissioned a report published by Arup called Pathways to Zero Carbon. It details a plan to enable Sheffield to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 85 per cent by 2030 and was discussed at the recent climate summit. The plan is useful as it shows how the council must act now in order to stand any chance of meeting our targets. All the political parties need to unite behind this report and lobby for funding to implement it.

Last week the Labour administration failed to declare an ecological emergency, even though the science is clear that we are experiencing the 6th mass extinction of species on our planet.

All the parties have good things to say about the environment but lack the urgency required to react to the emergencies we are facing. Labour says: “We are working with Sheffield Climate Alliance towards making our city carbon neutral. This includes 100,000 extra trees as part of Labour’s trees and woodland strategy.

"Major investment in parks and green spaces and £50 million for connecting Sheffield-a project to promote walking, cycling and public transport across the city.”

Solar panels at Meadowhall

They will also be continuing the grey-to-green project in the city centre.

All three main parties support the idea of a Citizen’s Assembly to develop policies to enable us to achieve net-zero carbon.

The Liberal Democrats acknowledge the climate emergency and the need to become carbon neutral by 2030. They will “Support efforts locally to reduce waste by improving recycling and improving our air quality. Enact policies that will enable us to make our contribution to national and global targets.”

Some stand out Lib Dem policies include supplying schools with air quality monitors and a ‘Greener Sheffield Fund’ – a pot for communities to decide how they would like to invest in their environment.

The Lib Dems and Labour recognise ”the benefits of the incinerator to reduce the need for landfill and obtaining energy from waste”. However, the incinerator is actually a major emitter of carbon dioxide. To reach zero carbon, this has got to change.

It’s no secret I am a Green Party member, they will get my vote. The Greens say: “The climate crisis needs government spending on the scale of what was available for the Covid pandemic. At a local level, our budget proposals focus on what is achievable here and now.”

These include​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​ a climate emergency team, warmer homes and local, clean energy production, such as solar farms; a £3 million Carbon Reduction Investment Fund, better walking, cycling and public transport; and the return of the electric FreeBee bus, plus helping the poorest with £2 million to offset higher council tax bills and cheaper bulky waste collection.

Local Government has a crucial role in helping society tackle the climate crisis. Please look at the candidates and vote for who will do most to protect our community and planet.​​​​​​​​​​​​​​