Liberal Democrats started the council’s focused work on Climate Change in 2008 and have been responsible for all three of the council’s landmark commitments, including the declaration of a climate emergency three years ago. We have led or contributed to each of the council’s four Climate Change strategies, which have each successively added value.
Progress in reducing carbon emissions has been made; though a large proportion of it has occurred incidentally and through the decarbonisation of the national grid – and there is a danger of self-satisfaction setting in.
Despite the council’s commitments, ill-considered deviations persistently happen: an actual decline in sustainable standards of council house building, a muddled approach to car use in the city, a default to gas heating in new buildings and a three-year delay between declaring a climate “emergency” and producing a new climate change strategy to respond. Reality too often departs from the vision. There is little in the council’s strategy to put that right.
Carbon reduction needs to be fully embedded in everything the council does. Liberal Democrats leading the council will:
- Move on from the arms race of wishful dates and develop a roadmapping to zero approach – a detailed plan of phased actions needed to achieve net-zero carbon as far before 2050 as possible – and integrate it with the council’s corporate, financial and asset planning – including the council’s housing and commercial property estate;
- Initiate a similar roadmapping to zero approach within partnership organisations and together drive a “whole geography” approach across all sectors and local authorities;
- Introduce a default, council-wide presumption for low carbon – a requirement that on any decision, the lowest available carbon option will be adopted unless an overpowering case is made to the contrary, with technical evaluations open to public scrutiny;
- Appoint the first ever Executive Councillor exclusively to provide political leadership for climate strategy across all the council’s activities: the ones it directly controls, those it regulates and those it influences through partners;
- Commit to green financial investments with available resources but hold them out of the roadmapping to zero plan – offsetting cannot be a substitute for eliminating emissions;
- Harness the unique resources of Cambridge to make the city a beacon in its reduction of carbon emissions.
The council’s waste service has a key role in our environmental impact. Almost everything we buy and use in our daily lives has a carbon footprint: we need to filter out as much waste as possible by Refusing, Reducing, Re-using and Re-cycling before we leave it to Rot. Recycle is better than Rot, but still a last resort. We need to filter out as much as we can early in the sequence to establish a more circular economy, striving for zero waste. Liberal Democrats will introduce a broader education programme to make options clearer and easier, and will explore how separate food waste collection could help.
Action against air pollution often equally supports the fight against carbon emissions. We aim to bear down on both. In addition to our transport plans, we will introduce an awareness campaign against engine idling, the early decarbonisation of waste collection vehicles, and explore smoke control areas.
Responses within council policy areas are addressed in other sections of this manifesto