Cheltenham Friends of the Earth are asking Cheltenham Borough Council to Get Serious about CO2 emissions in the borough.
What have we done so far? The group has been talking to Cheltenham residents about the campaign in Hesters Way, the Promenade and the Bath Road over the summer of 2010. We collected a over three hundred postcards from local people living in every ward of the Borough of Cheltenham who support our call for: “Cheltenham Borough Council to commit to cutting carbon emissions in the Borough by 40% by 2020 (from 2005 base line figures), and produce an action plan to make sure the changes happen.”
Councils have a big say in UK carbon emissions, from how we heat and fuel our homes to how we get around. If Cheltenham Borough Council commits to reduce emissions across the Borough by 40 percent for 2020 and implements an action plan, residents should begin to feel the perks of the commitment. Local action on this issue can create jobs, slash people’s fuel bills and boost the economy. It is estimated that the renewable energy industry alone is currently creating over 70,000 new jobs in England and Wales. If the 40 percent emissions cut is achieved, we would reduce the current gas and electricity expenditure in private Cheltenham homes and business from approximately £76m to £30m. Many households could be removed from fuel poverty and health will be improved across the Borough.
During 2010 we were supported by our local MP, Martin Horwood. Jonathan Porritt also took time out from appearing at the Cheltenham Science Festival to back the Get Serious campaing.
In January 2011 the group was asked to present our “Get Serious” request to the Council’s Working Party on Climate Change. The working party consisted of several councillors and council staff, including the Sustainability Officer. While they welcomed our presentation and proposal and support the emissions cut in principle, the working party felt there are too many obstacles in the way of achieving the target. These obstacles mainly consist of lack of funds to create new energy-saving projects and council staff to implement these projects. The working party agreed to consider the proposal and get back to Cheltenham Friends of the Earth in due course. At that meeting, they did not make any commitment to take the proposal to the full council as Cheltenham Friends of the Earth had asked.
Coverage of our presentation in the press was good, but the response of the council has not been encouraging so far. Since the presentation the Council’s Member for Sustainability, Roger Whyborn, has stated in the press that he feels the proposal to change behaviour across the Borough for the 40 percent emissions cut is too ambitious and unachievable. We disagree and have suggested a number of initiatives that other councils across the UK have implemented as examples where it is achievable. On a positive note, the Council stated it is increasing its internal emissions cut to 40 percent for 2020 from its current target of 30 percent.
Cheltenham Friends of the Earth continues to press for this commitment by working with the Council and other supportive community groups.Sallie Agombar