THE BLOG

UK Government Must Not Give Up on Climate Change

23/11/2015 15:20 GMT | Updated 23/11/2016 10:12 GMT

Next week I will be joining world leaders in Paris to negotiate a climate agreement for the next generation. This will be an opportunity to combine national policies and international development strategies to avert the worst impacts from CO2 emissions. Throughout the fight against climate change, the United Kingdom has been at the forefront of responding to this global threat, from Margaret Thatcher's surprising call for action in 1989 to passing the 2008 Climate Change Act. We have led the charge with allies in Europe and around the world until now. Recent policy reversals endanger the climate, the economy and the UK's standing in the world.

Following the 2015 elections, the Government is making new history in the fight against climate change--this time by reneging on existing policies and promises, endangering our transition to a low carbon economy for which Bristol has high ambitions. We have brought the community together around the ambition to make Bristol one of the healthiest and most liveable and resilient cities in Europe. As European Green Capital 2015, we take on a responsibility to set an example for cities across the world in sustainability and low carbon living.

I am proud that in Bristol we are leading this debate and are a clear step ahead of a nation that is now choosing to follow rather than lead the charge against climate change. While the Conservative rolls back the green agenda, Bristol is committed to a massive energy saving and renewables programme aimed at 40% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2020, from a 2005 base, 50% by 2025, 80% by 2050 and an ambition to reach zero CO2 by 2065. While the national government is damaging the UK's successful renewables energy industry over off-the-cuff subsidy roll backs, Bristol's Green Capital Partnership has a civil society membership of over 800 businesses, community partners and third sector organisations committed to promoting sustainability in the Bristol city region. In looking toward the future, our partisan political platforms are generally silent on long-range sustainability plans beyond 2020.

A green agenda is not only a responsible path to follow for the environment, it brings social and economic benefits to the city, helping to reduce poverty, improve communities and spur investment around the city. Research by the University of Bristol shows that efforts inspired by our European Green Capital project will save the city up to £300 million in energy bills and could create upwards of 10,000 jobs--many of which are in the construction and operations sectors. Installing solar panels can save families in social housing around £250 a year on electricity bills. Investments in renewable heat generation and district heating systems are poised to benefit social housing communities around the city. As mayor of Bristol, my ambition to make Bristol the most environmentally friendly city in Europe knows no limits. It will be good for us all.

It is a moral and economic necessity that we take action now to build more sustainable cities. Rather than backtrack on existing commitments, I ask the UK Government follow Bristol's lead as we approach the UN Climate Summit in Paris. I shall be taking this strong message to Paris where we are, as this year's European Green Capital, co-hosting the Cities and Local Government Pavilion at the summit.. Bristol's commitment to living in a responsible, sustainable way should inspire cities across the globe to join us in building a society we shall be happy to pass on to the next generation. I will continue to push for this locally, nationally and internationally.