We have a clear mountain which we must climb to stay alive, but will our strategy work, to get us to the summit, net-zero Green House gas emissions by 2030. Read Cllr Wisdom Da Costa’s comments on the draft RBWM Climate Strategy
60 Seconds Summary
- If we don’t get our Carbon or Green House Gas emissions down to zero by 2030 we’re heading for a dangerous planet Earth with millions of deaths, mass extinctions, flooded cities, more extreme heat and flooding and cold, polluted oceans, food scarcity, and so probably a lot of civil unrest.
- The draft RBWM Climate Strategy seems unambitious in that;
- It doesn’t target 2030 to reach net-zero carbon or GHG emissions
- It doesn’t address Climate Change Resilience i.e. the changes needed to buildings and services due to the levels of extreme weather that are guaranteed to occur to protect residents
- It is not clear on its scope i.e. what and who the strategy will be applied to
- Its methodology should guarantee openness & collaboration, and measurement metrics
- Much more work needs to be done to improve it and, pressure is needed from residents to council to bring the final report and actions up to the level of excellence that we and future generations would demand of us.
- There now follows a period of consultation where you can have your say before the report is finalised; more information to follow shortly
Scientists now tell us that we have little more than 10 years to get control of our Green House Gas emissions to avoid weather patterns and changes to our Biosphere so extreme that they will threaten the existence of millions of humans and cause mass extinctions as great that which wiped out dinosaurs from the face of planet Earth.
Climate Change Resolution
Last Spring, Sarah Bowden and the RBWM Climate Emergency Coalition, which included the many local Wild groups, and Plastic Free Windsor, petitioned the Council to pass a Climate Change resolution, seeking to become carbon neutral by 2030*.
*Scientists tell us that 2030 is now the essential date to avoid runaway climate change and even the EU is set to target 2030
For more information on Climate Change, Carbon emissions, and Green House Gases (GHG), click here to read our recent post “RBWM Environment and Climate Emergency: What’s the issue?”
Last June, such a resolution was indeed passed by Councillors, but the necessary ambition was watered down to 2050. Click here to read the Climate Emergency declaration passed by RBWM on 27 June 2019
Cross Party Climate Change Group
A Cross Party Climate Change Group was created to guide officers in the production of a strategy to achieve our climate change ambitions.
The panel is made up of Cllr Stimson (Con), Cllr Clarke (Con), Cllr Sharpe (Con), Cllr Davies (LibDem), Cllr W Da Costa (WWRA), and two officers.
After a very late start, there has been much discussion and activity in the last year, including three public workshops, correspondence with stakeholder groups such as RBWM CEC, Wild Maidenhead, Plastic Free Windsor, and Cycling groups.
Based on discussions with Professors, Defra, Natural England, and the experts at the Centre for Alternative Technology, and also speaking as a beekeeper, it was clear to me that we also needed to;
- Target 2030 for reaching zero GHG emissions by 2030
- Look to protect and enhance all biodiversity – after all isn’t the point of climate change action
- Ensure that we can cope with the increasingly extreme weather patterns that are starting to happen now (Climate Change Resilience)
- Be clear and open about our metrics, to enable our plan to be tested by others
I have also used my connections to create two government-funded opportunities for us;
- To create two Citizen Assemblies, with Defra and the University of Reading Edit – These would have been most usefully held BEFORE any Strategy was produced so Citizens and residents could knowledgeably have a say in the objectives and scope of the RBWM Climate Strategy. Thank you Mr Webb for querying this point.
- To create methodologies for Green Infrastructure and Blue Infrastructure that will help to assess investment and planning applications Edit – if undertaken, this should have a direct input into our Borough Local Plan and Supplementary Planning Document, which would prove useful for planners and developers alike with its clear science-backed methodology.
A lot of necessary hard work has been done by officers, the Lead Member, and Councillors but, we need a strategy which will be open, collaborative, verifiable, inspiring, empowering, and which covers all the bases.
Draft RBWM Climate Strategy
Fast forward to the Cabinet meeting of 28 May 2020 to review and approve the draft Climate Strategy.
Here were my final comments to the panel and strategy writers, to correct some obvious areas of concern.
I have finally got my head around the strategy paper presented, notwithstanding my overview comments in my recent emails, especially the email dated 14 May 2020 14:05.
None of my comments detract from the work done already, which needed to be done, however one approaches writing such a strategy and the eventual tactics and actions.
It is not my intention to offend anyone, please be assured of that; we all want the same thing, to protect the future wellbeing of our children and grandchildren and the biosphere; perhaps it’s just a matter of approach and style.
Here are my thoughts, en masse, and unrefined.
I am not going to comment on the Foreword, though I do agree with the views of the RBWM Climate Emergency Coalition.
- We need to clearly state the objectives, with each key objective having its own clause
- At a minimum, this should include
- Achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, with a stretch target of zero emissions by 2030
- Enhancing biodiversity and habitat creation for all appropriate, and native species
- Assessing the impact of Climate Change and building resilience for all areas under the control of RBWM
- We should also clearly note the scope of each area, which should be
- Own assets, JVCs, and all contracts and contractors
- This should be reflected in the Action plan
- I have no particular view on how or where we note our aims to facilitate all residents, whether businesses or citizens, achieving the same objectives.
- Baselines should be noted for each of the items noted in 2.7, 2.8, and 2.9
- As a quick point, you have noted the correct requirement to “reduce consumption” under
- Circular Economy in 3.4, and
- Renewable Energy in 3.13
- Please ensure consistency here
- As a comment on our four themes, based on detailed studies and modeling by the Centre For Alternative Technology (CAT), our themes contribute the following % of carbon emissions, and so priority and the focus for the Zero-carbon objective should be considered
- Circular Economy – 4%
- Renewable energy – 40%
- Natural capital – negative %
- Sustainable mobility – 40%
- For each theme, a baseline study needs to be conducted so we can see where we are starting from and can use the same evaluation methodologies to assess future projects. We must state the baseline figures now
- The key to enhancing all biodiversity is habitat creation, and land use
- We should ensure that this is reflected in our strategy, and SPD, which would include no development on greenbelt land
- I would suggest that we also add Net Zero carbon transport solutions for RBWM, staff, contractors, and public transport by 2050, with a stretch target of 2030
- In relation to the Action plans, the measure of success has to be stated in Carbon emission equivalents for all themes, and also biodiversity indicators, including the Green Infrastructure, and Blue Infrastructure indicators that we will be creating with Natural England
- Reduction of energy demand target should be 60%, in keeping with the methodology of CAT, though how you stage that over each periodic review needs thinking about
- The SPD MUST include net-zero Carbon targets, Biodiversity/Habitat creation goals, and Climate Change resilience standards for all new build and also retrofits/planning permissions
- We must lobby government hard for a range of laws and funds to help achieve our objectives
- Under Natural Capital, I suggest that we acknowledge that we don’t know, and set a target to work with a local University, which demonstrates excellence in this field, to develop information and understanding to
- Inform our SPD (Supplementary Planning Document as part of the Borough Local Plan guidance for planners)
- Create 5 yearly Biodiversity Action Plans for the Borough
- Given that Transport generates 40% of Carbon emissions, I suggest that we include
- a target to decarbonize all transport solutions under our ownership or influence.
- Introduce a low pollution zone over the entire Borough
- All reports and decisions taken, whether presented to Council for approval or not, must report on the effect of the proposed decisions on each of the objectives including carbon emissions, biodiversity targets, climate change resilience
- I can see no commitment to collaborate, deeply consult, review and report on best practice,
- Finally, it is my firm view that if you train our officers to understand clearly the concepts behind carbon measurement and biodiversity enhancement, it is they who will drive the proves and generate ideas to achieve our objectives
- I would appreciate a clear comment to that effect
- Please also, advise which officers contributed suggestions which were incorporated into the presented strategy
Based on these comments, I would ask you to either;
- Delay the publication of the strategy so we can get together and thrash these issue out with the Climate Action Networks, or
- Include the clause I previously stated of, “We will continue to develop the objectives, scope, and methodology to ensure that the strategy facilitates the highest levels of effectiveness and achievement.” or
- Note a caveat beside my name that says, “The report has a great many merits but I have concerns about the range and clarity of the objectives, and the content and openness of the methodology. “
Cllr Wisdom Da Costa, WWRA, Clewer & Dedworth West
Deputy Chair, RBWM Climate Change Cross Party Working Group
Credits & references
- Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash
- Carbon and Green House Gas emissions information, methodology, and model from the Centre for Alternative Technology’s book, Zero Carbon Britain (2019 Edition) – click here to for more information and to download a free PDF of the book
- This post is part of the WWRA Councillors regular series of Blogs to inform and empower local residents; as promised in their election leaflet
- It is also to comply with clause v of the Members Code of Conduct which states, “You must be as open as possible about your decisions and actions and the decisions and actions of your authority and should be prepared to give reasons for those decisions and actions.”
- The views expressed in this article are not necessarily the views of the West Windsor Residents Association (WWRA).
- Any errors are unintentional so, I would value you bringing them to my intention so I can correct them. You can Email me firstname.lastname@example.org