Ellie Chowns – Hereford Times “Talking Point” September 2020

We need to talk about climate & nature

If there’s one thing that (nearly) everyone agrees on, it’s this: the big issues shouldn’t be party political footballs. Instead, we need to find common ground.  Whether we’re talking about social care, the NHS, or environmental protection, we need to listen to everyone and work out solutions that we can all support.

That’s what a ‘citizens assembly’ is designed to do.  It’s made up of a truly representative cross-section of ordinary people of all ages & backgrounds, who come together to debate the evidence and say what they think needs to happen.  Campaigners have been asking for such assemblies to help us work out how to tackle the climate crisis, and the UK one (Climate Assembly UK) has just published (on 10th September) its report on ‘the path to net zero’.

The report sets out lots of great ideas about how we can cut emissions.  And it’s really interesting to see how much public support there is now for ideas that used to be considered radical just a few years ago.  Very large majorities now support policies like banning sales of the most polluting vehicles (86%), bringing public transport back under government control (75%), and taxing flights based on how frequently and how far people fly (80%).  It’s clear that there is a broad public consensus in favour of strong action to get us to net zero quickly and (crucially) fairly.

This is good news for us all – and most especially for our children.

Last year Herefordshire Council unanimously agreed the goal of being a zero carbon county by 2030. We’ve also recognised the ecological emergency that faces us – a crisis that can be seen close to home in the pollution that’s currently damaging our precious Wye and Lugg rivers.  So: how can we tackle these crises together? That’s the big question that we all need to hold in mind whenever we make decisions.

While Covid-19 has dominated our lives for the past 6 months, the climate crisis hasn’t gone away – and we’ve kept on working to tackle it. I’m proud that the council has been working with a diverse range of stakeholders – from campaigners to farmers, teachers to businesspeople – to kickstart an ‘Action Plan 2030’ to help us achieve our twin goals of zero carbon and abundant nature.  This autumn we’re going to be consulting widely on this, all across the county – aiming to involve as many people as possible in this vital conversation about our future.  We’ll be sharing info on Herefordshire’s current climate and nature footprint; highlighting inspiring ideas that have worked elsewhere; and inviting everyone in the county to help jointly make a plan for Herefordshire as a whole to tackle the climate and nature crises, together. Keep an eye out for more info in the coming weeks, and please do get involved & make your voice heard!

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