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A Magazine for Sheffield

Sheffield Climate Report - September: September

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Following pressure from the international school strike movement, Extinction Rebellion and other long-established campaign groups such as Sheffield Climate Alliance, Sheffield City Council declared a 'Climate Emergency' on 6 February. Since then, commitments have been made to ensure that the city is zero-carbon by 2030 and a report from the Tyndall Centre has warned cuts in emissions must average 14% a year if Sheffield is to make a fair contribution to global efforts.

National government followed suit with a motion declaring an 'environment and climate emergency' passing on 1 May. The Climate Change Act has since been amended to target net zero carbon emissions by 2050, rather than just an 80% reduction based on 1990 levels.

What does a climate emergency response entail? Presumably lots of proactive measures to make our cities greener, landscapes wilder, energy sources cleaner, expand public transport and prevent harmful waste. But I can't presume to know. Nobody quite knows what a 'climate emergency' response entails, so this regular report will look back on recent happenings to try and figure it out.

2 September

Law firm ClientEarth write to local authorities across the country, including to Sheffield City Council, warning that their Local Plans (town planning documents governing development in the authority areas) must contribute to the Climate Change Act's goal of net-zero emissions by 2050, or they will face legal challenge. Of course the main challenge remains retrofitting existing infrastructure, but it would be good to ensure new development enables sustainable living.

3 September

It's announced that HS2 will be delayed and over-budget. The second phase linking Birmingham to Manchester and Leeds was originally supposed to open in 2032-33, but is now being pushed back to 2035-40. Already under review, it remains to be seen what this means for Sheffield. It would seem to throw a spanner in the works for Sheffield City Region's Integrated Rail Plan.

4 September

Roadworks to make some parts of town more cycle friendly get underway.

9 September

Extinction Rebellion hold their third roadside protest against ring road expansion. The new cabinet member for Environment, Streetscene and Climate Change, Mark Jones, was there to say he is "onboard with the message of Extinction Rebellion" but does not support the protest. Rather than saying the scheme is to enable development of land around Kelham Island, he made the spurious argument that road widening was in fact about moving buses around the city faster. At best, a half truth, as any benefits the scheme provides in terms of improving traffic flow will only last a few years before induced demand re-establishes current levels of congestion.

At worst, turd-polishing dishonesty given the scheme has no bus priority measures. A response commensurate to the 'Climate Emergency' declaration would have seen all current and future development plans for the city and city region paused, re-examined and likely redesigned or replaced. But no such thing has happened. Instead this £4.6 million scheme that will only temporarily reduce congestion is going ahead based on the mantra of predict-and-provide, then justified by flawed appraisal methods.

Technocratic measures feigning objectivity obscure the reality that through schemes like this we are actively choosing to develop a transport system that harms the health of city centre residents, and will condemn both current and future generations to an unstable world.

13 September

Five months after Sam Wakeling's viral tweet, Sheffield City Council announce a trial pedestrianisation of Division Street over the weekend of 19 and 20 October. A move that is very much supported by local businesses. If you're willing to help out with marshalling, please sign up.

19 September

The Trade Union Congress (TUC) call for northern councils to bring bus services back under public control and establish a regional tram network.

20 September

Around the world millions take part in the Global Climate Strike and a few thousand march in Sheffield. Most notably, Sheffield's activity was led by Youth Strike 4 Climate, joined by retail staff whose employers had chosen to close for the day (Lush and some other independent retailers), trade unions, environmental activists and some elected representatives. There is something quite upsetting about watching children who would ordinarily expect to live long and happy lives take time out from their childhoods to express such fear about the future, but their courage is inspiring. Undoubtedly the people assembled had different and often contradictory understandings of why they were there and what is was that was being demanded, but a promising coalition nevertheless.

20 September

The UK gets its first subsidy-free offshore wind as prices have fallen dramatically in recent years.


25 September

New Department for Transport figures reveal that just 1% of the population take almost 20% of all flights, and that 10% of the population who are the most frequent flyers take half of all international flights. In an average year, 48% of the population do not fly at all. If we are all in this together, the case for a frequent flyer levy has never been stronger.

30 September

Despite the government's best efforts to kickstart the industry in the face of overwhelming opposition (both nationally and locally), it seems to be the end of fracking in the UK as Cuadrilla remove equipment from their Lancashire site.

Our task remains enormous but there is some cause for optimism in September, a groundswell of increasingly concerned citizens calling for action and inklings of what could be. The idea of a Climate Emergency - proactive action to be taken immediately in order to improve lives now and in the future - has not started impacting daily life in any perceptible way, but clearly there is an appetite for such action. Also notable is how amongst the fear and anxiety about the future there have been moments of collective joy and courage, particularly during the Climate Strike. Here's hoping for more soon.

If you would like a little less conversation and a lot more action please, check out Sheffield Climate Alliance's series of upcoming events or come along to Sheffield Extinction Rebellion's weekly meetings at Union St Cafe. Let's enjoy the ride together.

Jake Helliwell

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