Environment Capital Conference: Take lead from city, urges green expert

Prof Hugh Montgomery arriving at the conference in a Green Leaf private hire car. Photo: Rowland Hobson/Johnston Press (METP-27-02-12RH18)
Prof Hugh Montgomery arriving at the conference in a Green Leaf private hire car. Photo: Rowland Hobson/Johnston Press (METP-27-02-12RH18)
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A LEADING professor has said Peterborough is an example for the rest of the world when it comes to helping to save the environment.

Professor Hugh Montgomery, an internationally recognised expert in sustainability and a professor of intensive care medicine at University College London, said Peterborough should be an inspiration to other cities with its bid to tackle environmental issues.

The audience made up of more than 100 business people, councillors and residents at Peterborough's first Environment Capital Conference. Photo: Rowland Hobson/Johnston Press (MMETP-27-02-12RH12)

The audience made up of more than 100 business people, councillors and residents at Peterborough's first Environment Capital Conference. Photo: Rowland Hobson/Johnston Press (MMETP-27-02-12RH12)

Prof Montgomery, who presented the 2007 Royal Institution Christmas Lectures, called Back From The Brink: The Science of Survival, was the key note speaker at the first-ever Environment Capital Conference, held at the Kingsgate Conference Centre in Parnwell, Peterborough, yesterday.

More than 100 business people, councillors and residents packed into the centre to hear about the positive work being done in the city to help tackle climate change and the health and environmental problems it causes.

In Prof Montgomery’s speech, he outlined the major problems facing the world, including a massive growth in population, a global rise in temperatures, and the rapid rate humans are using resources, which put the very survival of mankind and thousands of other species under threat.

But he finished by saying the solution to the problems would not come from major corporations or governments but from local people.

He said: “Is there something that can be done? In the end it is going to be something local and the answer is going to come from somewhere like Peterborough.

“In fact, from what I have heard today, it is likely the answer could come from Peterborough.

“Councils are responsible for the health and well-being of their residents and should do more to encourage people to walk and cycle.

“More exercise means a reduction in depression, heart attacks, cancer and strokes, improves the air quality and is best for the environment.

“Peterborough City Council is the first council I have heard of in the world, other than one in Columbia, where they are linking health, environment and transport agendas in this way and it would be great if more could follow.

“It is down to leaders in the community to stand up and make their views known.

“If councillors and politicians here can get elected for the right reasons, and make their views heard, then other councils will follow in their footsteps and the floodgates will open.”

The conference was opened by Cllr Samantha Dalton, Peterborough City Council’s cabinet member for the Environment Capital.

Cllr Dalton, who travelled to the conference with council chief executive Gillian Beasley by bicycle, said the event was a rallying cry for the city to make a difference in boosting the green agenda.

She told the delegates: “This is your call to action to leave here and support what Peterborough is doing. We want to improve the quality of life for all our people and reduce the burden Peterborough has on the planet.

“And when we achieve those targets, or get near to them, we should be raising the bar again.

“We have already had Indian and Chinese delegates visiting the city to find out how we are doing things here in Peterborough.”

Mrs Beasley added: “This event is about what we can do at local level, whether it is councillors, residents or businesses.

“It is a call for action to say that we can do something to make a difference.”

Next steps:

FOLLOWING the conference, Cllr Samantha Dalton said it was vital the city built on the success of the event.

She said: “It has been brilliant and we have had some really positive feedback from everyone. There have been some positive messages and it seems people have been soaking them up like a sponge.

“Our targets are to cut carbon dioxide emissions by 35 per cent between now and 2014, increase recycling levels to 65 per cent by 2020 and ensure every new building is greener.

“And everyone can help. By getting out of your car, you can save money and reduce health problems – saving money for authorities which can be put elsewhere. Little things like that can make a big difference to make sure that Peterborough is a nicer place to live for everyone.

“For Prof Montgomery to say we are leading the world is a great credit to everyone in the city.”

What they said

“CLIMATE change is an international issue, but for my team and I, it’s about tackling this locally. It’s about finding practical and real ways to make a difference to the lives of people in Peterborough.”

Charlotte Palmer. Peterborough City Council’s Climate Change Team Manager

“Peterborough’s teachers and pupils are doing an amazing job embedding environmental education into the ethos and curriculum of most of our local schools. You couldn’t help but be inspired by the pupils on the films at the conference. They are all doing a brilliant job but we’d like our schools to be even better and have all of them involved.”

Jill Foster, PECT Environmental Education.

“Being sustainable is a major opportunity that we shouldn’t and can’t afford to miss out on and I hope that we addressed that at the conference. There are many projects that people can get involved in, including the Forest for Peterborough, Eco Schools, and also changing the way they live, by making small changes such as cycling to work. We appreciate the support we have received so far and hope that after the powerful speeches at the conference, people start taking action in helping Peterborough to become a more sustainable city.”

Rachel Huxley, PECT chief executive.

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