Following our October 2019 Climate Change Emergency motion, the South Down Alliance Team in Council had expected rapid action by Newry Mourne and Down Council Management in view of the millions of pounds of savings, additional income and a broader rates base action on Climate Change would bring to our Council.
By early in the new year of 2020 it was obvious that most, if not all, the key actions in our October 2019 Council Motion directing management to regard Climate Change as an emergency were NOT happening. EG
- Council declares a ‘Climate Change Emergency’ and directs management to effect dramatic short-term changes in every area under its control.
- council departments need to reflect this emergency with immediate and concrete steps.
- Every plan or target that Council produces needs to have concrete measures to reflect this emergency.
- Every external body or agency that Council influences or directs need to be preparing for 2030 and this will extend to the general public also through the planning and building control processes.
- Council should refer to Denmark, Scotland, Norway, Sweden and Germany to find best practice across all areas of sustainable development and low carbon technology for Newry, Mourne and Down Council
HOW I AND THE SOUTH DOWN ALLIANCE TEAM BROUGHT A NEW MOTION.
We knew that our Council was a member of the British/Irish association of Local Authorities (NFLA) . And that many Councils who are members of NFLA already had detailed Climate Change Plans in 2020 – for instance look at Derry and Strabane’s 2020 plan here where they are aiming to have the entire Irish North-West moving to zero Carbon. So it was reasonable to expect our Council could do the same.
There are dozens of examples of Councils who have had Climate Change Plans going for decades – saving ratepayer millions of pounds. One of the leaders of NFLA is Manchester Council – see their current plan here and this is what it looked like in 2020 when we could see our Council were not making any progress. They even had electric bin lorries and have long since electrified the other areas of the vehicle fleets by 2020. Our Council in 2023 is still aiming to buy an all-diesel new fleet.
Both ‘legacy’ Down Council and ‘legacy’ Newry and Mourne Council were founder members of the Nuclear-Free Local Authorities Association that was started after the UK Nuclear Fuels Authority were found to be leaking large amounts of radiation into the Irish Sea from Sellafield, sparking a epidemic of cancers along the South Down and East Coast of Ireland back in the 1970’s. NFLA now advises Councils on how to design policies for the ‘New Green Electrified Economy and how to tackle Climate Change.
So we put a second motion, detailing the concrete actions recommended to all Councils by the British/Irish Association of Councils (called ‘NFLA’) in terms of a plan of action in tackling climate change.
I put the motion, and Alliance Councillor Patrick Brown – now our MLA – seconded it
The NFLA guide outlines 10 core actions that Councils need to do
This British/Irish Association of Council signposts Councils to some of the leading examples in local government across the UK and Ireland who are undertaking such activity. The 10 recommended actions Councils should take to start delivering on ‘zero carbon’ resolutions are:
- Draw up a detailed climate emergency plan in consultation with citizen assemblies and large sectors of the local economy including health, education, leisure, business, transport, energy etc See link to Derry and Strabane Council’s 2020 plan above .
- Buy only 100% renewable electricity for council use and seek to install renewables on council buildings and council land (and in cooperation with other agencies).
- Develop wider and innovative renewable energy schemes like solar farms, low carbon district heating and heat pump schemes as part of efforts to offset the Council carbon footprint.
- Carry out a program of energy efficiency improvements on council properties (including with all social housing providers and community energy cooperatives) and enforce building standards to deliver zero-carbon homes and buildings.
- Stop buying fossil fuelled vehicles immediately.
- Start replacing current vehicle inventory with electric vehicles (EVs) and hydrogen powered vehicles.
- Begin a program of installing EV charging points.
- Draw up a plan for tree planting in parks, along roadside etc.
- Switch to locally grown sources for food in schools and council run institutions. Implement plans to introduce more allotments.
- Prioritise pedestrians and cycling strategies over road building schemes, whilst encouraging low carbon transport use.
Here are a few of the NFLA Climate Change guides that were available to Council in 2020.
December 2019 simple guide – used during our motion December 2019 Simple list Councils should be doing now top 10 tasks short version
More detailed with examples from Councils around Britain and Ireland Examples from 250 COUNCIL COALITION 10 RECOMMENDATIONS A307_NB194_Climate_emergency_10_top_tasks
Best Practice ideas Best Practice ideas for Council Climate Change Plans
A NFLA ‘manifesto’ for dynamic low carbon action NFLA ‘manifesto’ for dynamic low carbon action
Importance of Councils in delivering a ‘green recovery’ to the economic challenge of Covid-19 the importance of Councils in delivering a ‘green recovery’ to the economic challenge of Covid-19
In 2019, NFLA Forum councillors representing Councils from across these islands, agreed to refocus the NFLA Forum to assist local authorities with advice and best practice on dealing with the climate emergency and promoting sustainable energy. I was at the meeting in Dublin where it was agreed.
Most recently in November 2022, I got a majority of Newry Mourne and Down Councillors to agree to preserve our membership of NFLA when management wanted to end it. Proposed 2023 NFLA Membership Nov 23