The speeches that got away: What local authorities can do to save our planet

We are at a pivotal moment in the fight against climate change. Extreme weather is becoming more common, reducing crop production, pushing up food prices and bringing about more unpredictable and violent weather events.

It’s clear that it is now or never for the future of our planet. Temperatures reached 45°C in France this year – how long before we see temperatures like that in the UK?
The impacts of global warming are not only increasing, they will soon reach a tipping point beyond which climate change will become irreversible.

According to Environment Protection UK – a national charity that provides expert policy analysis and information on air quality – transport is the biggest source of air and noise pollution in the UK, responsible for around a quarter of UK emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) – a major contributor to climate change, and of course traffic noise that blights many neighbourhoods.

Researchers from the Universities of Oxford and Bath have calculated the economic cost of air pollution from vehicle emissions at between £22.6 billion and £71.3 billion.

The NHS incur the brunt of these costs treating patients for lung cancer, heart disease, respiratory disease and even dementia as a result of being exposed to dirty air in our towns and cities.

Dirty air has been linked to about 40,000 premature deaths each year in the UK, yet the government’s response to this tragedy is merely a pitiful ambition to phase out the sale of new purely diesel or petrol cars and vans by 2040.

Virtually all major car manufacturers are bringing new Electric Vehicles to the market over the next two years and there are strong forecasts for rapid future sales growth.

This growth is significantly ahead of UK Government predictions. Some in the car industry believe car manufacturers could well be aiming to stop diesel car production by 2023 and petrol before 2030, well ahead of Government policy.

Whether its 2023, 25, or 27, one thing is clear, Electric Vehicles are here to stay, and all stakeholders need to have plans to cater for rapidly rising numbers in our towns and cities across the globe, including here in the UK.

While the drivers may be global, the impacts will be local and UK Local Authorities will be on the front lines of managing this change.

The expectation that a reliable, accessible, and affordable charging infrastructure will be in place is, in the eyes of much of the public, the responsibility of local government. As council leaders we need to be well prepared for this historic shift in transportation and look to benefit from the opportunities this will bring.

Much of the charging of Electric Vehicles will happen at home or at a daytime place of work, but those who park on-street or who live in Victorian terrace homes around the country will also need access to charging points.

Our Councils could operate the charging infrastructure which will provide us with long-term revenue, much in the same way that the oil companies built their fortunes with the support of a petrol station network in the past.

Research carried out by Ipsos MORI has shown that one of the main deterrents to owning an electric vehicle is the perception of a lack of charge points available – so we need to do more to encourage the roll out of EV infrastructure in our towns and cities and ensure that these new charging points are visible to the public.

Undoubtedly, this is a major shift in the history of our transportation system with significant impacts and opportunities for local government. We have the power to help fuel this revolution by:
• Working toward a target of 20% of our public car parking spaces having active charging facilities
• Access to bus lanes for EVs
• Preferential residential and commercial parking policies for EVs
• Low emission zones, for example outside schools and urban centres
• Wireless and ultra-rapid charging services
• Procuring only Electric powered council vehicles and encouraging the wider public sector to do likewise
• Lobbying for an emissions-free bus fleet

– And working with our taxi trade to encourage more EV ownership are just a few ways Local Authorities can make a real difference in the development of a local market by being proactive.

From a global perspective the UK may seem but a grain of sand, but our efforts in Liberal Democrat led cities and towns to make a change for the better – despite the paralysis of the Conservative government – can make a positive impact to the lives of millions of people in our country.

* Mark Hofman has been a Councillor on Watford Borough Council since 2012.

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8 Comments

  • nigel hunter 25th Sep '19 - 10:50am

    Your comments ,to me .,instill the fact that Wrightbus (they make electric buses) should not be allowed to go under with the loss of jobs that would entail with an industry that could expand world wide. A proud successful future BRITISH business that is not owned by another country.

  • Although my family ‘do our bit’, to alleviate our impact on the planet, our actions. local authority’s action and even our nation’s action is not enough; to avoid the predicted catastrophy requires a worldwide effort.
    Achieving unanimity of effert is not helped by the utterances of the Australian PM (Scott Morrison)…. The Australian PM responded to an impassioned speech by the Swedish teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg at the United Nations by declaring the climate change debate is subjecting Australian children to “needless anxiety”….

    Reading such nonsense reminds me of why a really, really wicked witch would live in a gingerbread house. After all, why frighten the kids; at least until it’s too late?

  • One thing they could do is block the destruction of the countryside by property companies. The mania for building results in in environmental damage not just because the land is lost, but because housing also needs the supporting infrastructure for transport, rubbish disposal, power supplies, increased water usage , and sewage. On top of which it reduces food self sufficiency thus further increasing the environmental damage caused by transport. In short capitalism and population pressure can not be realistically squared with environmental sustainability.

  • Extreme weather is not increasing. I know that the BBC and other sources of alarmism claim this on a daily basis but the scientific evidence shows otherwise.

    Crop production has been increasing for decades due to the extra carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. It is of course an essential plant food and life on this planet would not exist without it. The current concentration is relatively low being around 400 ppm. Plant life would not survive below 150 ppm.

    There is no evidence for a climate tipping point apart from the regular (in geological time) transitions to glacial periods which are much more common than the brief warming periods.

  • nigel hunter 25th Sep '19 - 6:20pm

    Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, what concentration can a human survive without support?

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