At tonight’s meeting of full council, Norwich City Council unanimously passed Labour’s motion calling for investment in a green recovery – and for investment in councils so they can play their part in fighting the climate crisis – ahead of COP26.
The motion was proposed by Cllr Emma Hampton, cabinet member for climate change and digital inclusion, and seconded by Cllr Ian Stutely. Read their speeches in full below.
“In just over a month’s time COP26, the United Nation’s 26th Climate Change summit, is set to take place in Glasgow. World leaders will come together to review their progress towards meeting the Paris Agreement and present their plans to cut emissions and limit warming to 1.5 degrees. This is our best last chance – probably our last chance full stop – to keep this target alive and to avert catastrophic climate destruction. It needs to be a COP of action, not just words.
The eyes of the world will be on the UK, and this should provide an opportunity for our government to step up, show global leadership and raise ambition. We’re bringing this motion now to make sure Norwich adds its voice to those calling on the government to make the most of this crucial moment and do more, faster. We also, once again, want to amplify our ask to be given the money and power we require to deliver as much as we can locally.
COP26 comes at an especially pertinent time, as the UK and the world hopefully start to emerge from Covid-19 and move into a program of recovery. This pandemic posed an economic crisis, not just a health one, and has laid bare many of the deep inequalities our society faces. It has also seen mass behaviour change, with many of us having had to adapt to a new normal. Now the government should take this opportunity to build towards a sustainable, fairer future – keeping our emissions targets and international obligations in mind in the process. That means: creating green jobs and investing in reskilling, transforming our energy supply and transport systems, investing in eco-friendly, socially conscientious housing and decarbonising our farming and food systems.
But, unfortunately, so far the government has shown little sign of acting with the speed and scale required. They’ve frozen fuel duty, slashed electric car incentives, scrapped the green homes grant insulation scheme, and delayed the phasing out of gas boilers – just for starters. Their net zero strategy, and also hydrogen and heating and buildings strategies, have all had their publication delayed. There is a big disconnect between the government’s emissions reduction targets and the policy in place to deliver them.
And, of course, at the same time they’ve slashed local government funding and reduced the ability of councils to go as far as we need to and would like to go.
Action to tackle the climate crisis has to happen across the council and its services and – as we’ve always maintained – tackling this climate crisis is inextricably linked to dealing with those social and economic crises our residents are facing. This is the ethos underpinning much of the environmental work and many of the achievements of this council to date.
We were the first council in the country to run a collective reverse auction for domestic solar panels, and first to run a renewable-only collective switch scheme. In 2019, we launched Roar Power, our white label energy company, to bring renewable energy to the region at competitive rates. All of these schemes have served to provide residents with affordable, renewable energy – both reducing emissions and tackling fuel poverty. And of course our award-winning Goldsmith Street social housing development has provided highly energy efficient homes for local people.
Norwich City Council has cut its own operational carbon emissions by 62% since 2007 and is aiming to be operationally carbon neutral by 2030 – but, like all councils, we also have an important role to play in showing community leadership and driving the collaborative approach required to tackle city-wide emissions. This will be put into practice with the new evidence-based, independent Norwich Climate Change Commission – set to launch soon.
We should be really proud of what this council has managed to achieve against such a challenging financial backdrop – and this is testament to the hard work and dedication of officers and colleagues. Going forward, we will continue to work innovatively and collaboratively within the constraints placed on us – but we can’t continually do more with less. The government must use the opportunity of COP26 and the subsequent autumn spending review to invest in a transformative green recovery – and to invest in councils.”
“Thank you, Lord Mayor, and thank you Cllr Hampton for introducing this motion, which lends our support to calls from around the world for genuine, effective, and immediate action at COP26.
Scientists have issued warnings about the impact of globalised environmental negligence for decades. Economic and political heavyweights have consistently ignored the threat – in favour of short-term profits – wilfully facilitating the proliferation of what has become a climate emergency.
Time ran out years ago. And the financial benefits have been enjoyed by so few, while a simultaneous crisis of economic injustice and deep-rooted inequality has accompanied our decent into climate catastrophe. If we fail to FINALLY act on climate change, it will be the poorest and most vulnerable around the world, the UK, and in this city, who will suffer the most.
As Cllr Hampton has explained, Tory dithering on climate change is costing precious time, and while Labour local authorities like Norwich City Council are leading on carbon reduction and green initiatives, we need resources and investment to help build on this work and bring local and national targets forward. The government must provide the means to build more energy efficient social housing; the funding for retrofitting and fully insulating the city’s existing housing stock; and suitable infrastructure to develop clean public and private transport. And that’s just the beginning.
We need government investment in clean energy technologies, public ownership of new green industries fit for the future, creating secure, well-paid, unionised jobs for the next generation. We need to transition from a reliance on fossil fuels to a zero-carbon economy without leaving a single Norwich community, family or worker behind. I hope we will all support a green industrial revolution – a system change – that will deliver climate justice for our city.
But it must start immediately.
COP26 is more critical than ever before and offers UN members an opportunity to finally accept that truly radical measures are required NOW to save the planet from total disaster.
As hosts, the UK government must take the lead and ensure real action is taken around the globe. But the Tories’ record of climate inaction is shameful, and few in this meeting will really expect anything more than bumbling banalities from Boris Johnson in November. Instead, we desperately need a Labour Government to push this through.
We need a socialist green industrial revolution that will create climate and economic justice for Norwich. A socialist Green New Deal that this Labour-led council can deliver in the years and decades ahead.
I formerly second this motion and urge you all to support it tonight.”