Last month, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued an urgent message.
Carbon emissions from fossil fuels must be radically cut; global temperature rise should not exceed 1.5°C degrees above pre-industrial levels and a different economic model is needed if human civilisation is to survive in its current form.
Already, the global temperatures have risen by one degree celsius, and we are on track for warming in excess of three degrees.
Scientists warn that, within our children’s lifetimes, we should plan for a sea-level rise of two metres or more. Worse, scientific models indicate a sea-level rise of more than six metres based on current levels and projected increases in greenhouse gas emissions over the next 10 to 20 years.
East Anglia’s coastline is highly vulnerable to climate change. A two-metre sea-level rise would swamp coastal marshes, beaches, the Broads and some coastal communities.
Besides sea-level rise, coastal erosion, flooding, extreme weather and loss of food production, Norfolk would suffer the consequences of climate breakdown happening beyond our borders. As always, people on low incomes would suffer most.
The scale of reduction in emissions necessary requires a global plan on a wartime footing. Norwich must play its part and start working to create a carbon-neutral city by 2030, just 12 years away.
Surveying the national and local scene, there is a near-absence of political leadership. We should not be taken in by complacent claims that carbon emissions in the UK per head of population have fallen and other countries such as China are to blame.
UK per capita carbon emission figures exclude significant greenhouse gas emissions from consumption of goods made overseas and from air travel. Norwich’s per capita figures also exclude road transport emissions from city residents travelling by car to places in neighbouring districts such as the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital.
Last week, Green Party councillors in Bristol persuaded the Labour mayor to declare a Climate Emergency, adopt a pledge to make Bristol carbon-neutral by 2030 and call on national government for more powers and resources to support this.
We need Norwich City Council to pass the same motion. There is also a great deal that the city authority can do.
Firstly, the council can ensure new homes and commercial properties are built to stay warm in winter and cool in the summer and they are kitted with renewable energy generating measures. The council should lobby the government to increase grants for insulating existing homes and restore incentives for solar panels.
Secondly, high-quality, affordable bus rapid transit for serving Greater Norwich is crucial. City council and local authority partners should stop backing major new roads.
Already, the NDR has locked Norfolk’s transport carbon emissions into a 6pc increase by 2032. Instead, a transport strategy is required to reduce reliance on private cars and lorries. The Greater Norwich Local Plan should locate new development in and close to the city along public transport routes.
Thirdly, business can take the lead on developing a low-carbon zero-waste local economy, where resources are re-used and not thrown away as waste. The city council can set the right planning framework for business – not supporting major employment in the countryside and encouraging a low-carbon economy.
Fourthly, we need to make Norwich zero-carbon-waste – for example, the council needs to achieve step change in food-waste collection. Government and business must urgently address single-use plastic packaging.
Fifthly, we can all help to make Norwich more resilient. Loss of green spaces such as sports fields to development and private gardens to parking has created extensive hard surfaces. This has made the city hotter and vulnerable to flash flooding. We need to plant more trees and hedges, design green walls and roofs and learn to love grass.
We can only achieve a viable future and a Norwich 2040 Vision if we work towards a carbon-neutral city by 2030.
Denise Carlo is the leader of the opposition Green Party group at Norwich City Council
Original Article in Eastern Daily Press