Four years after declaring a climate emergency, Bristol council’s commitment to climate action was questioned by campaigners and an ironic birthday cake.
On Tuesday, December 13, members of Extinction Rebellion Bristol demonstrated at City Hall, demanding that the council act with increased urgency to meet its commitment to a carbon-neutral Bristol by 2030, the deadline set in the 2018 declaration.
Campaigners used a giant ‘ironic birthday cake’ to ‘uncelebrate’ four years of what they consider inadequate action from the council and invited councillors to share in ‘slices of cold comfort.’
XR Bristol member and Lecturer in Water and Environmental Management, Dr Claire Gronow, said: ‘The council started well, commissioning studies into how to reduce emissions across Bristol and preparing plans with lots of interesting ideas.
‘We’ve seen pilot-scale projects such as the Redcliffe heat network and fun initiatives such as the Voi scooters. But we have not seen any credible plan for how Bristol can get to carbon-neutral by 2030.
‘We know that 87% of Bristolians are concerned about climate change. Our fear is complacency and disempowerment: Bristolians might believe the Council rhetoric that Bristol is on a path to carbon-neutrality, when in fact this is clearly not happening. We need to keep calling on the Council for real action.
‘There are many more cost-neutral or even revenue-raising initiatives that Council could introduce, like charges and levies to reduce car trips, and taxes on carbon intensive SUVs in our city.’
The campaigners say they commend the recently announced City Leap initiative which brings private sector investment to help decarbonise Bristol. However, they raise concerns that the reality of the scheme falls short of its ambition.
XR Member Greg Cooper, said: ‘When the City Leap idea was first mooted in early 2019 we were told that it would bring in £1 billion of investment in low carbon energy infrastructure in Bristol. But so far the initial agreement is for only £424 million.
‘We now read in the new Climate Emergency Action Plan that in the first five years, City Leap will deliver avoided CO2 equivalent emissions of around 140,000 tonnes. This is a good start, but it’s only 10% of the city’s annual emissions. Clearly much more is needed to get to carbon-neutral by 2030.’
The Climate Emergency Action Plan also promises to ‘lead city heat decarbonisation.’
But, in response to a Freedom of Information Request in April 2022 it was revealed that so far, only 1204 households have been connected since the heat networks in Redcliffe started construction in 2016. The new Climate Emergency Action Plan mentions providing low carbon heating systems to just 400 more new houses.
XR Activist and retired NHS worker Clive Weston said: ‘There are just under 205,000 houses in Bristol, so if we are to meet the 2030 carbon-neutral target, every one of these homes needs carbon-neutral heating in the next eight years; a rate of roughly 25,000 houses per year, just under 70 per day. That’s just one example of how much acceleration is needed.’
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