2019 was a big year for the climate movement, with a whole range of trends pushing the issue up the political and media agendas. School children all over the world followed Greta Thunberg out of their classrooms and onto the streets as part of the Fridays for Future campaign, while Extinction Rebellion activists brought London to a standstill. Both these groups put pressure on governments and local authorities to acknowledge the scale of the crisis by declaring a climate emergency.
Back in June, Birmingham City Council unanimously passed a motion declaring a climate emergency and setting an aspiration for the city to be carbon neutral by 2030. The following month, the council’s Cabinet followed this up by making tackling climate change one of their six main priorities. Here at Birmingham Friends of the Earth, we celebrated this as a big step forward for a city which has too often treated environmental sustainability as an afterthought.
But declaring an emergency is not enough – we also need a credible plan to respond to the crisis. The Council has set up an internal steering group as well as a Taskforce made up of councillors and representatives of faith communities, business, health, education and the voluntary sector. Birmingham Friends of the Earth is represented on the Taskforce through our membership of the Greener Birmingham Coalition.
The initial timeline suggested that an outline plan with key actions for achieving carbon neutrality by 2030 would be ready to present to full council for approval in January 2020. Unfortunately, we understand that this timetable has now slipped and that the action plan will not be ready until April.
We see our role as local climate activists as keeping up the pressure on the council to make sure that they cannot keep delaying and that the plan arrived at is ambitious and equitable. To launch this phase of our climate change campaign, we held an event entitled Climate Emergency: What Next? in early November, bringing together residents to discuss what they want to see from the plan and build the skills to ensure councillors hear them loud and clear.
To follow this up, we will be holding another event to dig deeper into what local residents want from the action plan and putting together a vision for what a carbon neutral Birmingham could look like in 2030.