News from Lockleaze councillor Estella Tincknell - December 2018
As 2018 draws to a close we can look back and see that it has been an extremely eventful year in many ways. No, I’m not just talking about Brexit which I will leave for our MP, Darren Jones, to deal with.
As I write, major forest fires have been destroying parts of California including, tragically, a whole town called, in a terrible irony, Paradise. These fires are a ‘natural phenomenon’ in that they have always been a threat in hot dry parts of the globe, but their increased frequency also suggests that our climate is becoming more extreme generally, and the destruction of an entire community indicates that even in the wealthiest state of the wealthiest country in the world dealing with the consequences of climate change must be about effective prevention not just fire-fighting when extreme natural events take place.
A major feature in 2018 across the globe as well as locally, then, has been the sheer number of these cases of extreme weather, such as the blistering heatwave we had in July across the UK not so many months after the ‘big freeze’ that was such a feature of the previous winter. Whilst individual extreme weather events like this do not prove anything in themselves, wider data shows that climate change is not only a reality, it is becoming an ever more urgent priority. One largely unreported consequence is its role in mass migration from some of the hottest parts of the world to cooler, more temperate climes. As parts of Africa have heated up over the last decade, local peoples have found it impossible to sustain even traditional and very minimal subsistence levels of agriculture; their crops fail, animals die, people starve. This is not their fault. The overheating of the world is due to the carbon emissions and pollutants that industrialised countries are producing – yet it is often in the very poorest parts of the world that the most severe impact is felt and, in desperation, people move. Dealing with the consequences of climate change in terms of stopping migration when it happens as a result of desperation cannot, then, be the answer. We need to look for solutions that are practical as well as humane. And this has to include action at the local as well as the national level.
At the November Full Council meeting we had an important moment of cross-party agreement in which the usual differences were set aside. All of the political parties supported a motion declaring a ‘climate change emergency’ and speakers from every Group argued that cities like Bristol are in a strong position to lead the way in taking action to clean up our environment. We agreed to aim to make Bristol carbon neutral by 2030, taking into account both production and consumption emissions. Of course, this is an aspiration and it is one which cannot be achieved by the council alone without the co-operation of a whole range of organisations and individuals within and around the city, such as bus companies, utilities companies, the rail networks, and individual citizens. But it is a start.
A significant aspect of this for Lockleaze is to improve public transport. If we are to reduce emissions we have to find ways to get people out of their cars and using public transport for a greater part of their travel, perhaps by significantly increasing the proportion of journeys made by bus. We have seen some improvements to the bus service locally, with a clearer fare structure and some additional services such as the 72 route. Improvements to the bus stop infrastructure in Lockleaze are also coming on stream next year, including better shelters, signage and ‘real time’ information so that people can plan their journeys more effectively. But there is still much to be done in terms of making Bristol’s buses more reliable and speedier. And, in addition to the impact on our climate, traffic flows, such as those along the M32, can have a significant impact on our health due to the emission of tiny particles that can be breathed in. Going some way to reducing this through natural screens of trees – and there is a tree-planting scheme planned to come to large sections of the ward next year - can help to alleviate the impact of pollution in everyday life, but we also need to reduce the number of vehicles creating the problem in the first place.
We also need to ensure that the badly needed new housing, the new school, and other developments coming forward in the ward will make environmental sustainability a key feature. We must also keep an eye on the planning process, and make sure we turn down potentially polluting proposals, such as the bid to locate diesel generators adjacent to Romney Avenue that we successfully defeated.
So, as we approach 2019, let us make sure we put the environment at the top of the agenda, both locally in Lockleaze and in the city of Bristol, as well as nationally. Then we can all help to make a difference.
And in that spirit I wish you a Happy Christmas and a Peaceful and Prosperous New Year.
Councillor Estella Tincknell