The Council needs to act on the climate emergency

Thank you Lord Mayor.

Climate change is very real and is destroying lives – and livelihoods – now, everywhere. Human impact on nature and on the planet’s natural boundaries adds to the crisis in the systems we depend on for our food and physical and mental well being.

In the face of lack of action from governments – cities around the world are at the forefront of taking the actions we need. York was recognised last year as a leading climate action city – but there is certainly much, much more to do. We welcome the commitments in motion 1 to ensure that all decision makers in the council keep in mind the urgency of the situation; to include intermediate targets in the Climate Change Strategy; to develop the new Local Transport Plan in line with carbon reduction targets and to implement the pollinator action plan.

What matters most of course though is not only having good strategies and plans but the actions and outcomes that follow. The challenge is huge – but fortunately the ‘upside’ is that the vast majority of climate actions can also improve people’s lives right now – for example, a zero carbon, resident focussed York Central delivering new green jobs; a cleaner, healthier environment in York; long-lasting and well-insulated homes delivering very low energy bills for residents.

What you actually do in detail – across all portfolios – will determine how successfully you can deliver this agenda for everyone in the city – so a few comments on your Emergency Budget at item 10.

We support the aspirations here. We wish you well with developing the free school meals pilot to reach all children in need across the city. We welcome the External Funding Officer – a post we have put in our budget amendments for many years. Hopefully, this officer will be able to help the Carbon Reduction and Housing Teams to access finance to scale up retrofit for all householders, building on work already done to benefit York residents and tackle this major source of emissions.

Our biggest concern about this budget though is where you have taken money from. The funding taken away from the very local level may be very much missed when it comes to practical grassroots actions on climate, nature and tackling social isolation. The ward highways funding has had its difficulties but was just beginning to work better. It could play an important part in encouraging walking, wheeling and cycling, whilst responding to very local needs. I’m still hopeful one of my Guildhall ward highways schemes, arising from resident concerns will improve pedestrian and wheelchair access into the city centre across the Aldwark/Goodramgate junction. It is programmed for July – and hopefully will appear quite soon!

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