One year of climate emergency, but Sheffield city council still haven’t sounded the alarm

In February 2019, one year ago, I presented the Sheffield Council meeting with a petition, pleading with them to declare a climate emergency.

Friday, 10th January 2020, 10:35 am
Updated Thursday, 30th January 2020, 6:50 pm
Act now Red Robes
Act now Red Robes

This they did, and later agreed to become carbon neutral by 2030. But, what has happened to the urgency of this initial declaration?

Other cities are making progress. Sheffield, however, has failed to deliver the Citizen’s Assembly that was promised to take place before the end of last year.

They have failed to tell the truth to the citizens of Sheffield, making very little effort to inform us about the dangers of climate and ecological breakdown.

Zero change - council still haven’t sounded the alarm!

They have failed to act on the Tyndall Report which established a carbon budget for the city. The report recommends that the city must not exceed a budget of 16 million tonnes of carbon emissions before 2038. At current rates of energy consumption, Sheffield will use its entire budget in less than six years.

Other cities are way ahead of Sheffield. Nottingham boasts about a series of schemes to transform the 2,7000 council homes in the city into some of the greenest housing stock in the UK. With external insulation and solar panels, they are creating a massive win-win situation; lower bills for tenants, less fuel poverty, less CO2 emissions.

Nottingham has also implemented a workplace parking levy. Employers with more than 11 car park spaces must pay the council per parking space. Money raised from this has improved cycle routes, trams, buses and the railway station. The net effect is less congestion and much improved public transport, so more people choose to leave their car at home. Contrast this with Sheffield, where the council consulted on a Clean Air Zone in the city centre which didn’t even include private cars.

York is going even further. They plan to ban cars inside the city wall within three years. Only buses and disabled drivers are exempt from the ban. The council also wants to trial a driver-less electric shuttle service in order to help disabled people get around the city centre. Birmingham is planning a traffic-free city centre too and will be building homes on car park sites.

Sheffield Green Party campaigners

Nottingham is planning to get residents to separate their food waste and use this to produce biogas for the city’s buses. School kitchens will be incentivised to source food locally to reduce food miles. There are plans to plant 50,000 trees, in a major contrast to Sheffield that has only recently been forced to stop chopping them down.

The main reason for Nottingham’s success in reducing harmful emissions seems to be the holistic approach they take, integrating green thinking into all decisions.

Leeds has an impressive website which educates the public about how they can reduce their carbon footprint and explains in simple terms what the climate emergency is. It could be better, but its streets ahead of what Sheffield has managed.

Bristol City Council was the first local authority to declare a climate emergency. It committed to making the council carbon neutral by 2025 and the whole city by 2030. It has published its implementation plan, which commits the council to a 200 per cent increase in renewable energy, and other things including installing solar panels on 10,000 council houses and training councillors and staff in climate change issues.

Many cities have initiated Citizen’s Assemblies where members of the public, chosen in a similar way to jury service, are presented with the facts about the climate emergency and then asked to make recommendations for the council to implement. Brighton and Oxford have done this successfully and Leeds have carried out a citizens jury.

One thing Sheffield has done since declaring a climate emergency is to change to a renewable energy provider. Good, but green energy has been available now for more than 20 years. My household converted back in 1999. Why has the council taken so long to get around to this? I’m afraid they get no brownie points from me for this very belated action. Sheffield Councillors must step up to the challenge.