Moving a landmark carbon neutrality action plan today at Bristol’s City Hall, Labour Mayor Marvin Rees – the first council leader in the country to declare a Climate Emergency – said:

“Young and old have shown their strength of feeling on the urgent action required; and we have a duty to pass on hope in an Earth with a better climate trajectory and more just global order than we inherited. But this chamber’s political will is not enough. No council truly delivers without uniting the whole city behind that goal. Bristol has the first university and the first science centre in the UK to declare an emergency – but these are first steps on a long road.

“In January we launched the One City Plan’s first iteration, with environmental aims for every year up to 2050. Last week we launched the Environment Board, which will take responsibility for these and making offers and asks of the rest of the plan. Thanks to Labour MPs, our Parliament was the first to declare an emergency. And my LGA motion secured unanimous support, with 435 councils doing the same. Ultimately though, without support, clarity and funding from national government, delivering on 2030 will be near impossible. Some choose to ignore this, preferring chasing headlines to meeting deadlines.

“The report data shows that consumption contributes almost 60 per cent of Bristol’s emissions. Imports contribute twice as much carbon as electricity, gas, and transport; and 10 times more than aviation and shipping. Crucially, while direct emissions are down 37 per cent on 2005, imports’ emissions are not declining in-line. And Bristol’s Centre of Sustainable Energy calculates that carbon footprints mirror disposable income. Those with the most cash have footprints almost four times bigger than those households with the least.

“As Jeremy Corbyn has said, we must build on Labour’s Climate Change Act to reduce carbon, rather than off-set or off-shore. And, just as we can’t ‘pass the buck to poorer countries’, we can’t repeat the coalition’s mistake of balancing the global financial crisis on the backs of the poorest in our own country – on the backs of working people – for clean air or the climate emergency. Consumers who can most afford it must change their behaviour to achieve 2030, and national governments must do more to facilitate transition for those who can least afford it and are most affected.”

Speaking following the meeting, which also saw Labour radically strengthen a Green Party motion on pension fund diversification and divestment away from fossil fuels, Councillor Marg Hickman (Leader of the Labour Councillors) added:

“Tonight Marvin once again showed that Labour are leading the way on the environment, with his radical report on carbon neutrality, together with our calls for over £200 billion of council pensions to be better invested in renewable adding to today’s push forward. For anyone to claim these ground-breaking moves represent ‘business as usual’ is merely stuck in ‘politics as usual’.

 “Labour action on the climate emergency today adds to our £90 million of investment passed by Labour in February for renewable energy and tackling fuel poverty. As our £1 billion transformation of Bristol’s energy infrastructure through the City Leap programme continues, sadly without the support of opposition parties, Labour carries on calling for a Green New Deal from national Government.”

Notes to Editor

 In November 2018, Labour-run Bristol City Council and Labour Mayor Marvin Rees became the first local authority in the UK to declare a climate emergency. The motion passed then also moved the carbon neutrality target from 2050 – in line with Labour’s 2016 local manifesto, which was the only party manifesto to set such a  concrete target – to 2030. In July 2019, at the Local Government Association national conference in Bournemouth, Mayor Marvin Rees’ motion got a further 435 councils to join him in declaring a climate emergency and endorsing the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

At tonight’s Full Council meeting, Labour radically strengthened a Green Party motion on pension fund divestment and diversification. Gaining cross party support, Labour Councillor Steve Pearce called for the Brunel Pension Partnership (assets circa £30 billion) and the Local Government Pension Fund Forum (over £200 billion) to follow the lead of Bristol and the Avon Pension Fund (combined assets of Bristol and other former Avon area councils, worth some around £5 billion). This amendment represents over forty times more in terms of pension funds than the original motion.

 The Mayor’s carbon neutrality report speech also highlighted how Bristol Labour have gone well beyond the first step of voting for a climate emergency to actually delivering measures to meet carbon neutrality:

  1. Bristol being recognised as the best recyclers among core cities and will deliver [a new recycling and reuse centre at] Hartcliffe Way;
  2. Bristol City Council beating its carbon emissions reduction targets, reducing carbon twice as fast as Bristol as a whole, and setting a new 2025 corporate carbon neutrality target;
  3. Bedminster’s new bio-methane fuelling station for buses which emit 80% less greenhouse gases and 95% less nitrogen oxides;
  4. That Labour have also put £90 million towards low-emission vehicles, flood defences, renewable energy, reducing fuel poverty, and increasing insulation in February.

 Attached:

  1. The tracked changes version of the Labour pension fund amendment, which noted the ‘considerable return’ from the council’s own investments which ‘avoid… organisations engaged in… de-forestation, fossil fuel extraction, and poor environemtnal practices; enhancements since 2016 to the Avon Pension Fund’s environmental, social, and corporate governance to ‘recognise and assess climate change risks, undertake annual carbon footprinting studies… [and] increase… its allocation towards renewable energy infrastructure’; and the reality that ‘playing politics with pensions without fully consulting staff is anti-worker and risks failing to understand the crucial need for social and environmental justice to go hand-in-hand’: https://democracy.bristol.gov.uk/documents/b18350/Amendments%20to%20Motions%20recevied%2016th-Jul-2019%2017.00%20Full%20Council.pdf?T=9

 See also:

  1. 435 councils back Bristol’s pledge to deliver the UN’s SDGs and declare a climate emergency;
  2. Mayor of Bristol’s climate action commitment [including carbon neutrality report];
  3. Environmental Sustainability Board unveiled;
  4. Consultation on traffic clean air options;
  5. School communities invited to join pilot to reduce air pollution.

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