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Don’t backtrack on commitments to protect the environment, Greens urge Labour, ahead of major meeting on council finances

Potential for ‘green jobs,’ and economic recovery from Covid-19 could be lost if climate projects stall

A plan for the council’s budget has raised fears that work to prevent the climate crisis is being ‘put on the backburner,’ despite commitments to a ‘fair and sustainable recovery,’ from Covid-19, Greens have said today.

Proposals going to the council’s powerful Policy and Resources committee (tomorrow, July 9th) suggest that some funding for projects that tackle the climate emergency could possibly be withheld until next year. [1] A report detailing the council’s response to the economic impact of Covid-19 also proposes scrapping a previously agreed plan to fund more plastic recycling in the city, despite growing concerns over waste, litter and the impact of disposable face masks on the environment. [2]

If approved, the proposals could mean further delays to progress on the council’s ‘Sustainability and Carbon Reduction Investment Fund,’ a pot of money designed to support projects that bring down toxic emissions, that was proposed by Green Councillors and agreed by all parties during a decision on the council’s budget. [3]

Urging the Labour Council to protect residents facing the Covid-19 crisis from a worsening climate crisis, Greens say it is vital that attempts to backtrack on climate commitments are challenged. A wealth of evidence now shows that greater investment in ‘green’ projects will significantly aid the city’s recovery from the economic impact of Covid-19 and create thousands of new jobs and skills. [4] Councillors have also voiced concerns that the target agreed by all councillors to reduce toxic emissions – or become ‘carbon neutral,’ by 2030 – could be missed if funding for vital climate projects remain withheld. [5]

Calling on the Labour Council to uphold funding commitments made before the pandemic, Greens have stressed their view that planned investment in ‘green’ projects will put the council in a stronger position to help people, the environment and the economy recover from the Covid-19 crisis

Green Finance Lead David Gibson commented:

“We are in a terrible crisis which will impact badly on council finances and people are losing jobs, so at times like this, it is all the more important to retain plans that will mean greater employment opportunities. Jobs in growing sectors related to protecting our environment not only provide an income for people but tackle the other great crisis facing us- the climate crisis. This is the essence of our calls for a ‘green new deal,’ to support our city. So-called ‘new deal’ employment packages have helped countries recover faster from recession in the past and are needed again now.

“We are asking councillors today to support Green requests not to ditch or delay sustainability measures, but find ways of continuing with the investments that can create the jobs we need to help recover from the looming recession. On top of this, we are also proposing that the council makes up some of the budget shortfall through reserves not needed until future years – instead of current proposals, which suggest raiding a fund earmarked for investing in recycling including plastics. Surely recycling plastics is more important than future ‘maintenance’ provision that can be replenished over time.

“Everyone wants action to reduce single use plastics that are clogging our ocean and the council can help by upping its plastic recycling offer. Last December we committed to invest this money in recycling, and facing a climate emergency, now is not the time to get cold feet and renege on this, or our other environmental commitments.”

Councillor Phélim Mac Cafferty, Green spokesperson for Policy and Resources Committee, added:

“We are urging Labour Councillors to come with us as we do all we can to support a green recovery for the city. As far back as April, Greens asked the Labour Council to reconsider attempts to put plans for projects like solar panel installation and flood prevention on hold – a request that they did not support, leaving us concerned that Labour’s understanding of the need for a green recovery could be growing thin. [5] Throughout my life I have observed that the environment has always been bottom of the priority list – and today we stand at a cliff edge.

“This is despite really positive evidence that projects that help the city tackle the climate emergency will also help us to support our local economy out of Covid-19. The association for councils found that a commitment to projects that help our environment – like installing solar panels or insulating cold homes – could create over 1 million new jobs across the country in the next thirty years. Closer to home, the Greater Brighton Economic Board has urged leaders from across Sussex to see the benefits of a ‘green recovery,’ for stimulating investment in our region, and safeguarding the environment that draws so many here

“Greens fully recognise the impact Covid-19 has had on council finances, and this is precisely why we want to see a sustainable and fair recovery. Holding off on our climate commitments is a detrimental step backwards at a time when tackling climate change and investing in green projects offers us such a clear way out of the hit to the local economy.”

ENDS—

Notes for Editors

[1] Proposals to ‘pause’ the agreed Sustainability and Carbon Reduction Fund are suggested in Appendix 3 of a report on the council’s ‘General Fund,’ going to a meeting of Brighton and Hove City Council’s Policy and Resources Committee today, 9th July: https://present.brighton-hove.gov.uk/documents/s155667/Appendix%203.pdf

[2] A previous Green proposal to the committee had successfully called on the council to use surplus money resulting from changes to the council’s waste management contract to help fund increased plastic recycling: see Brighton and Hove City Council Policy and Resources Committee agenda, 5th December 2019: https://present.brighton-hove.gov.uk/documents/s147520/Item%2096%20Veolia%20Deed%20of%20Variation%20GG%20PR%2005.pdf A Green amendment also asks July’s Policy and Resources Committee to consider how to improve recycling of PPE and prevent PPE litter: https://present.brighton-hove.gov.uk/documents/b34094/Addendum%2009.07.20%2009th-Jul-2020%2016.00%20Policy%20Resources%20Committee.pdf?T=9


[3] Approved amendments to the city council’s budget from Green Councillors have led to the creation of a ‘sustainability and carbon reduction investment fund’ (SCRIF) in order to support projects that help the council meet its ‘net zero carbon by 2030’ targets. The fund was started in 2019: https://www.brightonhovegreens.org/2019/03/21/council-takes-new-steps-to-tackle-climate-emergency-following-green-budget-win/  and was supplemented by a Green amendment to the council’s budget in 2020: https://www.brightonhovegreens.org/2020/02/27/greens-transform-citys-budget-and-invest-11m-to-tackle-climate-change-and-reverse-cuts/

[4] Local Government Association, 11th June 2020: ‘Over a million new green jobs could be created by 2050,’ https://www.local.gov.uk/lga-over-million-new-green-jobs-could-be-created-2050
and
Greater Brighton Economic Board, July 2020: ‘Covid-19 Economic Impact Assessment,’ https://present.brighton-hove.gov.uk/documents/s155847/GBEB%20Covid%20Report%20HATCH%20005.pdf


[5] Brighton and Hove Green Councillors, 1st May 2020: ‘Council’s Covid recovery cannot come at expense of climate recovery, Greens say,’ https://www.brightonhovegreens.org/2020/05/01/councils-covid-recovery-cannot-come-at-expense-of-climate-recovery-greens-say/

At a meeting of Policy and Resources Committee April 2020, Green Councillors urged the Labour administration to reconsider plans to pause solar panel installation, flood prevention work and electric fast vehicle charger work – but this request was not approved during the meeting: see Green Group amendment to Covid-19 financial position statement at Policy and Resources Committee 30.04.20 https://present.brighton-hove.gov.uk/documents/s152260/Item%20164%20GrnGrp%20amendmnet%20-%20V2%20Covid19%20financial%20002.pdf



[6] Brighton and Hove City Council issued a statement on a ‘fair and sustainable recovery,’ from Covid-19 https://new.brighton-hove.gov.uk/news/2020/fair-and-sustainable-recovery

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