It is now more than 7 months since Sheffield City Council declared a Climate Emergency. Some progress has been made. The Tyndall Report was commissioned and has shown that the Council need to reduce its emissions by 14% every year to reach the target of zero by 2030. They are working on a Citizens Assembly where ordinary people will have a say on how these reductions can be made. We have seen plans to reduce the intensity of street lights and to introduce a Clean Air Zone. On the other hand, work is still progressing on expanding the inner ring road, which will lead to more traffic and more emissions. I think Sheffield Council may have begun to understand the horrendous scale of the problem but are yet to act as if it is an emergency. This may be partly because the general public does not yet understand that if we do not manage to halve global carbon emissions by 2030 (with fairness requiring we achieve this much sooner, as a wealthy industrialised economy), we are likely to face unimaginable consequences including eventually the extinction of our own species. As Greta Thunberg says” I want you to act as you would in a crisis. I want you to act as if our house is on fire because it is.”
Other local authorities do not even recognise we are in a climate emergency. Barnsley, Rotherham, Doncaster, Chesterfield and Bolsover Councils continue to bury their heads in the sand hoping the crisis will go away while they continue with business as usual. This is not good enough. Science can’t be ignored, and ignorance is no longer an excuse. These authorities must start acting responsibly or resign and hand over to others that will.
Our regional Mayor and Barnsley MP Dan Jarvis also appears to be ignoring the emergency. He has the powers to transform our transport system but has yet to make the deep change of direction we need. Appointing an active travel commissioner and bidding for Transforming Cities funding is welcome, but any emissions reductions from these are likely to be far eclipsed by his support for the disastrous road and airport expansion ambitions of Transport for the North.
Our politicians are failing us, but the people are rising up. We can not sit back and watch the destruction of our life support system.