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A Magazine for Sheffield

Activists call on Council to take more radical action ahead of climate talks

Coordinated by the South Yorkshire Climate Alliance, the petition calls for targets and ambitions to be matched by concrete commitments.

An alliance of local climate activists have demanded that Sheffield City Council take more ambitious action on climate breakdown ahead of the crucial COP26 summit in November.

The petition, which has been co-signed by groups including Friends of the Earth and Green New Deal South Yorkshire, calls on the local authority to make "specific commitments" following the already-declared climate and nature emergencies.

The South Yorkshire Climate Alliance, formerly known as Sheffield Climate Alliance, has put forward its own proposals for what those public commitments could be, including financing plans, investment in house insulation and renewable energy.

“The recognition of a nature emergency alongside the climate emergency was an important step for Sheffield but declarations are only a start," said Lindy Stone, Sheffield coordinator at Friends of the Earth.

Brian lewicki Yp71 D Mk UAN8 unsplash

Birmingham introduced its own Clean Air Zone in June this year.

Brian Lewicki on Unsplash.

"What we are looking for are real actions to be taken soon. Every month that passes without action is a month wasted in our fight to ensure nature’s recovery alongside the requirement to reach zero carbon."

In August 2019 the Council declared a climate emergency and set a goal for the city to be zero-carbon by 2030, but have done little to achieve this target in the past two years.

In March this year engineering giant Arup released a report commissioned by the Council called Pathways to Zero, which outlines the action needed to achieve the 2030 goal. The report contains 80 recommendations, including major improvements to the city's poor-quality bus network and an ambitious city-wide programme of home insulation.

But with funding to local government slashed to the point where many councils struggle to pay for statutory services, it's not clear how many of the report's recommendations will be funded.

“A code red for humanity is a code red for Sheffield," said Geoff Cox, a Labour party member who wants the new Labour-Green administration to be more ambitious.

"I’m really proud of the City Council for declaring climate and nature emergencies, but we now need to make more concrete commitments to demonstrate how we are contributing to these global efforts as a city.”

Plans to introduce a Clean Air Zone, similar to those already in place in Labour-run Birmingham and London, appear to have stalled indefinitely, despite being recommended in Arup's report.

Meanwhile the city has not yet taken the radical action on energy consumption seen in Nottingham, where the Labour-run council has installed over 4,000 solar panels on council homes, or taken public transport back under public control like in Manchester.

Activists say that many of the commitments they are calling on Sheffield Council to adopt would boost the local economy in the long-term.

“The commitments we are looking for aren’t costs, they are an investment in all our futures and the futures of our children," said Joan Miller, a member of Green New Deal South Yorkshire.

"They will create an economic transition for the city, potentially bringing tens of thousands of new future-proof green jobs and skills. Now is the time to make these things happen.”

The petition text in full:

The United Nations Secretary-General has called the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report “a code red for humanity”, and the 26 th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) will begin at the start of November in Glasgow.

The climate and nature crisis requires an urgent global response, which includes by cities, towns and individuals as well as by nation states and international bodies.

Sheffield City Council (SCC) has already declared Climate and Nature Emergencies, and our Co-operative Executive has already committed to implementing ‘Pathways to Zero Carbon in Sheffield’. Now is the time to take the next steps - to demonstrate to the citizens of Sheffield and the world beyond how Sheffield is directly contributing to these global efforts. These commitments should not be limited to the decarbonisation plans in ‘Pathways to Zero Carbon in Sheffield’, but to the wider climate and nature crisis.

We therefore call upon SCC to show real leadership by making bold and meaningful public commitments on behalf of the city before COP26 begins.

by Sam Gregory (he/him)

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