The motion that was passed by Portsmouth City Council yesterday:
Proposal to Declare a Climate Emergency in Portsmouth
Proposed by Councillor Judith Smyth
Seconded by Councillor Thomas Coles
We are in the middle of a climate emergency which poses a threat to our health, our planet and our children’s and grandchildren’s future. (Sadiq Khan London Mayor)
The UK exceeded the scientifically agreed safe level of CO2 in the atmosphere (350ppm) sometime in the late 1990s. Since then we have been gambling with the lives of future generations and other species. Today we have reached the point where, even if we stopped all production of fossil fuelled cars, buses, trains, ships and planes and built no more gas or coal power stations, we would still only have a 64% chance of keeping below the 1.5°C target agreed in Paris in 2015.
In Portsmouth we have very high levels of air pollution on some streets where people live, cycle and walk exposing people to dangerous chemicals. Children are particularly vulnerable. We have also had several breaches to sea defences and are vulnerable to flooding.
48 UK local authorities have declared a climate emergency including Cornwall, the Forest of Dean, Bristol, Lambeth, Nottingham, Lancaster, Brighton and Hove, and Milton Keynes. 72 cities around the world have also declared a climate emergency committing resources to address this emergency.
A climate emergency declared by a local authority can be a powerful catalyst for community wide action when paired with a clear action plan. There is no time to waste if we are to avoid the consequences of a rise in global warming above 1.5°C.
We propose that Portsmouth City council asks the Cabinet to Declare a Climate emergency to give a compelling lead to citizens, businesses and other partners of the urgency to reduce our carbon footprint to zero by 2030.
Portsmouth City council has started this journey. CO2 emissions in Portsmouth have reduced from 1243.5 kilotons in 2005 to 817.9 kilotons in 2016 and the City council has recognised that to avoid the worst impacts of climate change further reductions are needed. Several separate initiatives are underway. For example, electric car charging points, tree planting, investment in the new plastics recycling plant required to recycle more plastics jointly with Hampshire and Southampton by constructing a new Integra plant and the ‘cough, cough’ campaign together with reduction of carbon footprint of council premises and services.
However, this is somewhat disjointed and too slow. What is needed is action. Working with local business and other partners we need to develop and agree an ambitious city-wide strategy and clear action plans leading to rapid action which is openly monitored, well led and well governed. We need to enthuse and involve citizens, including young people, in generating ideas and support for green policies, plans and action. We can lead the way as a Green City.
Portsmouth City council will ask the Cabinet to:
1. Declare a ‘Climate Emergency’ then ask partners to sign up including local business, schools and community groups.
2. Pledge to achieve net zero carbon emissions in the Portsmouth by 2030, considering, both production and consumption of emissions according to the Standard provided by the Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Protocol.
3. Require the Leader of the Council to report back to the Council within six months with an action plan, detailing how the Council will work with partners across the City and with central government to ensure that Portsmouth’s net carbon emissions (Scope 1, Scope 2 and Scope 3 emissions as defined by the GHG Protocol) are reduced to zero by 2030.
4. Provide an annual report on Portsmouth GHG emissions, what is working and what is more challenging and progress towards achieving net zero-carbon emissions.
5. Require the Chief Executive to establish a ‘Portsmouth Climate Change Board’ before the end of July 2019, equivalent to that of Manchester, to underpin our efforts to decarbonise Portsmouth.
6. Write to the government requesting (a) additional powers and funding to make the 2030 target possible and (b) that ministers work with local government and other governments to ensure that the UK maximizes carbon reduction by 2030 in line with the overriding need to limit global warming to a maximum of 1.5°C.
7. Develop and implement a community engagement plan to i) fully inform residents about the need for urgent action on climate change ii) offer a vision of a healthier, more child friendly and greener city that is a model of best practice iii) mobilise residents in the delivery of the action plan.
This motion covers “scopes 1, 2 and 3” for Portsmouth, which basically covers all greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions within the city (including transport), GHG from grid supplied energy and GHG outside the city that are the result of activity in a city (“transmission and distribution losses associated with grid-supplied energy, and waste disposal and treatment outside the city boundary and transboundary transportation”). That is very comprehensive. We are looking at a complete decarbonization by 2030. It will take very ambitious measures to reach this goal – presumably including a fossil fuel vehicle ban, replacement of heating systems and local wind power generation. This in turn will require massive investment in public transport and electric vehicles, and make a CAZ look like a walk in the park!
Looking at the new air quality leaflet to be distributed to all homes in Portsmouth, there is quite a startling statement about how discussions with DEFRA are going:
However analysis shows the measures we are looking at won’t improve the situation as quickly as the government wants, but we’re continuing to work with them to try to find new solutions.
Basically Portsmouth City Council has been told to go “back to the drawing board”. PCC needs to take the issue seriously. From today’s Air Quality Steering Group meeting, they certainly are talking about adopting more radical steps. However, I spoke to Gerald Vernon-Jackson (head of the council) and he was strongly anti-Clean Air Zone. I don’t think this is appropriate since I doubt that the council will be able to identify any package of measures that are as effective as a CAZ (as they are required to do). Without analysis of the alternatives, it is far too early to rule out a CAZ. In fact, a CAZ on its own is unlikely to be sufficient. Any air quality measures will be an important stepping stone towards the zero carbon target. In turn, measures for reducing GHG are likely to help improve air quality.