OPINION: Deeds not words to keep carbon in the ground, says Green Party

 Cllr Lucy Galvin with a solar panel at an Earth Day event at The Forum, Norwich

Cllr Lucy Galvin with a solar panel at an Earth Day event at The Forum, Norwich. She is pictured with Green Party member Adrian Holmes - Credit: Submitted

It’s great news that Norwich City Council has unanimously supported the Climate and Ecological emergency bill that is going to parliament.

Less great is that nature is on the brink of collapse, with one million species at risk according to UN data; and it is now or never to take action on the climate crisis and stop emitting carbon into our atmosphere.

So we can’t wait around for the national government in Westminster to save us. As the bill says, many local councils are playing an important role in the UK taking action to achieve net zero. This is essential, and sooner rather than later.

How can we make Norwich one of those authorities? Radical cuts need to happen by 2030.

Lucy Galvin, chair of the Marlpit Community Centre. Pic: Paul Harrison.

Lucy Galvin - Credit: Paul Harrison

That is this decade: now, effectively. Many councils have set carbon neutral targets for sooner than 2050. It is possible – and essential.

We need, as the graph in the city council’s environmental strategy shows, an eye-watering 12.7% cut in emissions year on year in Norwich, starting now.

It is a massive challenge but it can be done. It won’t be done by words or supporting acts of parliament, however good. It will be done by action.

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I am glad the ruling Labour group accepted the Green amendment adding local action, because it will be deeds not words that keep carbon in the ground.

Of course there’s no doubt the challenge stretches beyond City Hall and what the council directly emits.

Residential buildings and road transport combined form nearly 60% of CO2 emissions in our city.

But as a city council, we are in a great position.

We can – and we have to – lead. We can convene, work actively with others, use initiatives like our Good Economy Commission to commit to shared targets. We can work with communities, using all our communications channels, sharing information with citizens and setting a positive example.

Action is mainly about specifics. Here are three areas and actions we can take, now, as a council – as a do-able start. They are all being done in various other councils.

Firstly, we need to make an action plan linked to specified carbon reduction targets. We have a massive challenge on our hands. We need to get to it, and get to it fast. Cutting the likes of 12.7% a year will not just happen, however good our intentions. So we need to establish a clear link between reduction targets and the scale of actual actions required to meet those targets.

Secondly, we need to put our money where our mouth is and invest. We have commercial investment ability – we must invest in large scale renewable energy initiatives such as solar power and battery storage.

There are lots of options here, from classic to innovative - some councils are launching community municipal bonds so citizens can invest in a safe, sustainable economy on their doorstep.

Thirdly, we must retrofit; bringing good insulation and cheap clean power to homes across Norwich.

We need a retrofitting strategy, a one stop shop, the skills, the capacity, so that each home in Norwich has the opportunity of clean energy, good insulation, and huge financial and carbon savings.

One home at a time, we can do this for Norwich. And we have to, starting now.

Cllr Lucy Galvin is deputy leader of Norwich City Council Green Party group