Global temperature records continue to be broken and extreme weather events make headlines almost every day. The 2015 Paris Climate Agreement declared global temperatures must rise by no more than 1.5 °C yet, several years on, it is almost definite that this threshold will be exceeded. The time left to prevent a catastrophe far more damaging to us than COVID-19 is fast running out. As well as needing action from the UK government, we also demand change at a local level.
In June 2019 Birmingham City Council declared a Climate Emergency and committed to producing a plan to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2030. They set up a ‘Route to Zero’ taskforce who prepared an Action Plan – but this plan is wholly inadequate. With the natural world already nearing irreversible tipping points, the timescale of ‘net zero by 2030’ is nowhere near good enough.
Extinction Rebellion was one of the key groups pushing for the declaration of a Climate Emergency and we are still pressing the council to honour its pledge. We want Birmingham to be a shining example of green development, not just to other local authorities but to the UK government as a whole.
Key areas where we want change are:
- Citizen Involvement: The people of Birmingham must be properly consulted and involved in the radical changes that need to take place, yet the ‘Community Assemblies’ that have happened so far have been dominated by hired consultants and there is no obligation for the community’s suggestions to be acted on. Extinction Rebellion calls for a Citizens’ Assembly, in which a representative group of ordinary citizens, selected by sortition (lottery), set the agenda for what needs to be done. Citizens’ Assemblies have been trialed in various contexts with great success – read more about them here.
- Housing: An easy win for reducing carbon emissions would be to ensure that all new homes are properly insulated, with solar panels and heat pumps – and to retrofit those that are already built. This would have the added benefit of reducing people’s energy bills and creating many thousands of ‘green jobs’.
- Transport: We may have a Clean Air Zone in the City Centre but if we want people to stop using their cars there needs to be a viable alternative. Improving and subsidising public transport and making the city safer for cyclists and pedestrians should be prioritised.
- Recycling: Birmingham has one of the worst recycling rates in the country, and so much ‘waste’ that could be reused or recycled is sent straight to the incinerator in Tyseley where it is burnt. This releases huge amounts of carbon dioxide which heats the atmosphere, as well as polluting the air with particulates. The Council has a responsibility to make sure our waste is handled in a way that is best for our health and our future.
What You Can Do
There are various ways you can make a genuine difference, either on the streets or at home:
- Contact your local councillors, encouraging them to vote for any measures that make progress towards reducing carbon emissions, and to compel their colleagues to do the same.
- Raise awareness on your own social media platforms.
- Contact local press to get the issue more widely noticed.
- Sign up or get in touch to help us organise our campaign against the Council.