Taking the environment seriously

Summer is approaching its end; we should pause and use this moment to take stock of what we've experienced. Unusually, it has been in excess of 30 degrees Celsius here in Peterborough for much of the time; in London, temperatures have been even higher, writes cllr Shaz Nawaz, Labour leader on Peterborough City Councillor.

Sunday, 19th August 2018, 1:00 pm
Updated Sunday, 2nd September 2018, 10:09 pm
solar panels on roof

It was 45 degrees in Lisbon at one point. Records are being consistently smashed.

I am very concerned by what scientists have been saying; the data indicates that not only are we feeling the effects of man-made climate change, we could see these rises in temperature accelerate over the coming years. For example, methane, a greenhouse gas, has been kept frozen in the Siberian tundra: if it melts and the gas is released, we could see an acceleration in the changes we’re witnessing. The summer we’ve just experienced could become quite normal; some other parts of the world could become uninhabitable. Switch on the television news, and it’s clear that this future has arrived in some parts of the planet: wildfires are ablaze in California and Greece.

Fighting the effects of climate change should be a cause that is near and dear to Peterborough’s heart; after all, we have billed ourselves as an environmental capital. Yet, when I look at the cuts to public transport, cuts to solar power schemes, and yet more road building, I have to wonder how deep our commitment goes. Balanced budgets are obviously important; but a perfectly kept ledger won’t stop the greenhouse effect.

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The saying among environmentalists is to “Think globally, act locally”: we can make a start by looking at public transport provision. As I’ve previously mentioned, it is possible to set up co-operative bus services in areas which Stagecoach presently won’t cover. We should also commit to becoming a “carbon neutral” council by initiating activities such as planting trees and buying carbon credits to ensure that our outputs are absorbed and mitigated; this includes whatever carbon is emitted by building social housing. New housing should also comply with the highest environmental standards.

Rather than continue to encourage the growth of retail, we should also look at how we can encourage environmentally minded start-ups to come to our city. The specialism of the forthcoming university is yet to be determined: I suggest that environmental sciences and environmentally friendly urban planning would be good places to start.

We should also look at carbon emission density in our city; the city of Barcelona worked with Cisco in order to monitor air pollution. I suggest a similar partnership will give the council the information it needs to target its traffic and public transport policies.

I urge the council to look at the world around us and examine the evidence.

The crisis we face goes far beyond party politics: I am happy to work with all parties to ensure that we do our bit to make Peterborough live up to its stated ideals, and ensure our children have a world which they can inherit.