Government Must Work with Councils to Tackle Worsening Heatwaves and Extreme Weather

On Thursday 21 October Denise Craghill and Andy D’Agorne proposed a motion (text below) on the council and government working on tackling the effects of the heatwave. You can see what they said here.

Proposer – Cllr Craghill

Thank you Lord Mayor. Just over a week ago the Environment Agency issued a stark warning to the Government regarding climate change – adapt or die. Back in August the latest IPCC report of the world’s climate scientists was presented as a ‘code red for humanity’. It said that many impacts of global warming on the earth’s climate are now irreversible in the short term. Increased incidences and severity of floods, droughts, higher temperatures and heatwaves will continue to get worse and will have to be adapted to as best we can. Impacts will be magnified in cities as a result of rising temperatures and the heat island effect caused by buildings and other hard surfaces.

At the same time, this preparatory report for COP26, the global climate summit which starts in Glasgow in just over a week’s time, also said that there is still time – only just – to limit the effects of climate change, to avoid the catastrophic effects of going beyond 1.5 degrees of warming and to begin to stabilise the earth’s climate for everyone’s benefit. But this will only come from bold and decisive actions, significant changes to how we live and a great deal of collaboration and working together. Every village, every town and every city, every business, every organisation and every level of Government will have to play their part and work together in partnership to achieve this.

The good news is that if we can make the necessary progress we can also achieve a lot of other good things along the way – new jobs, lower energy bills and a healthier environment.

The first draft of York’s Climate Change Strategy will come forward shortly. It will demonstrate what we are already doing in York and what can be done to achieve zero carbon by 2030, but it will also demonstrate how much we need Government to step up, to deliver national policy and funding programmes that are equal to the task and to work closely with local government to deliver the necessary changes.

This motion asks council to support two main actions. Firstly, to ensure that we are doing everything we can to prepare to protect our residents against the impacts of climate change – not only flooding but also extreme heat which could affect our older and most vulnerable residents, as well as both local and global impacts on food production and food supply. Secondly, to join other councils around the country, the Local Government Association and senior council directors in calling on the Government to create a joint local and national Government task force to tackle climate change. Please support it.

Seconding speech – Cllr D’Agorne

Thank you Lord Mayor. I’m very happy to second this motion which strikes at the heart of why I became a Green councillor and why this council is committed to tackling the climate emergency. On Tuesday the Government published its Net Zero Strategy aimed at cutting UK carbon emissions to zero by 2050.

It certainly contains some positive steps (however small and inadequate for the task). Whilst long overdue, we can and must work with these as best we can.

But it also includes measures that don’t make sense (funding for heat pumps without matched insulation work), are plain wrong greenwash (mini nuclear power plants), and the whole package offers too little funding and ambition for the scale of the problem.

As Caroline Lucas has said, Government plans to phase out gas boilers and promote a shift to heat pump systems are welcome, but nowhere near ambitious enough. Grants of just £5000 and a 2035 boiler phase-out date simply won’t be sufficient to drive down emissions or support low-income households to make the switch. The UK’s heat pump policy lags well behind other European countries. The UK is installing 30 times fewer heat pumps than tiny Estonia and 60 times less than Norway.

There also seems to be no strategy for scaling up to the target of hundreds of thousands per year, from the initial 90,000 households over 3 years who could benefit from the subsidy towards cost of heat pumps. There is also no indication of a serious insulation programme to ensure pumps are cost effective and to avert a massive increase in electricity demand (and consumer cost).  Equally there is no indication of the skills strategy to work with local colleges and councils to train up thousands of heating engineers and retrofit building workers, to benefit from these green jobs, rather than simply fuel wage inflation and see another stalled installation programme.

To quote Caroline again “We need Government funding to be more substantial, focussed on the right actions, but also long term and consistent with longer lead times for funding bids and longer deadlines for completing the work. There is a huge amount to be done to build capacity and skills in local communities and supply chains. We need Government to work with us on this”

Alongside all this, just as York has learnt from our experience of floods and worked with government agencies, we need that support for adaptation and building resilience to extreme weather and heat in our day-to-day delivery eg. a plan to protect and enhance city trees and green spaces will contribute to carbon reduction but also help to mitigate the heat island effect, addressing the backlog of drainage maintenance installing more SUDS etc could allow us to mitigate the impact of more intense rainfall, avoiding surface water flooding and overflowing storm sewers. Please support the motion.

The motion:

Government Must Work with Councils to Tackle Worsening Heatwaves and Extreme Weather

“Council notes:

  • The work currently being done by City of York Council to progress towards our 2030 zero carbon ambition including the community woodland, new zero carbon housing and energy efficiency retrofit schemes as well as a draft city wide strategy.
  • That progress in most areas is nonetheless held back by a lack of substantial and consistent Government investment and closer working with local councils.
  • The signs in York over the last few years that climate change has already begun in earnest, with hotter drier summers, warmer wetter winters and increased frequency

of extreme weather and flooding.

  • That in 2018 at COP24 the UK Government signed up to working with local communities to deliver the UK’s

‘Nationally Determined Contributions’ in the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement;

  • That, in May 2021, the Rt. Hon. Alok Sharma MP, President of COP26, said collaboration would be a key objective of the COP26 Climate Summit in November – “Governments, business and civic society need to work together to transform the ways we power our homes and businesses, grow our food, develop infrastructure and move ourselves and goods around”. Council believes:
  • That despite these agreements and statements, there is still no formal relationship allowing joint partnership working between Local and National Government to take mitigation and adaptation actions against the climate emergency;
  • That greater collaboration and action are required if we are to mitigate our greenhouse gas emissions and meet our commitments under the Paris Climate Agreement;
  • That mitigation strategies should be accompanied by effective adaptation measures to ensure that we are equipped to deal with the changes in our climate that have already begun. These include the potential for heatwaves and extreme weather that will threaten the health and well being of our most vulnerable residents and may also impact on food security.

Council therefore resolves:

Government Association and the Association of Directors of Environment, Economy, Planning and Transport, and others, for a joint local and national government taskforce to plan action to reach ‘net zero’ emissions.

  • To call for such a partnership to set appropriate regulations, benchmarks and targets and create the much needed longterm funding to enable local council areas, communities and economies to decarbonise whilst remaining resilient and able to realise the benefits of decarbonisation in terms of new green jobs and a healthier environment.
  • To therefore ask the Chief Operating Officer to write to Alok Sharma MP, President for COP26, the Prime Minister, and the Leadership Board of the LGA, informing them of our support for a joint Local/National Government Climate Change Partnership Taskforce and asking for one to be established as soon as possible.”

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