On Tuesday, I was proud to move a motion for Bristol at the Local Government Association (LGA) which saw 435 local councils declare a climate emergency and support the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
As co-chair of the Global Parliament of Mayors, the local leaders I meet rally around common challenges — rapid urbanisation or depopulation, delivering affordable housing and growing the economy without increasing inequality that undermines our social fabric, population health, air quality, and climate change.
The SDGs are a collection of 17 global targets for 2030, set by the UN General Assembly, that offer a coordinated framework for tackling these issues through sustainable development. They build on the Millennium Development Goals and cover a range of interdependent challenges that we are all grappling with. Poverty, hunger, climate change, decent work, inclusive growth and global partnerships are all central to the agreement
They SDGs cannot be delivered solely through the drive of national governments. All levels of government — local, regional, national, and international — must work together. Local leadership, with its immediate connection the complexity of people’s lives, is well positioned to tackle the challenges we face at a time when national governments are falling short. We are making a case for empowering local government to tackle the issues on the ground in our communities.
I was pleased to work with my colleague from Wakefield to amend the SDG motion to include a declaration of climate emergency in response to the IPCC report. Their report advised that we must limit global warming to 1.5°C, as opposed to the previous target of 2°C. Their review of over 6,000 sources of evidence found that, with a rise of 1.5°C, there would be risks to health, livelihoods, food security, water supply, human security and economic growth. An increase to 2°C would be even more catastrophic.
In Bristol, we’ve aligned our One City Plan to the SDGs – underpinning a collective city-wide commitment to their delivery. What’s more, the SDGs ensure we recognise the interdependence of our challenges. One of the worst features of the Twitter-isation of our politics is single-issue campaigns, which give little or no thought to other vital areas of public concern. After all, ending poverty must go hand-in-hand with creating jobs, developing the economy and saving the planet from climate emergency.
Sustainability must be delivered by realising environmental, economic, social and political justice at the same time. While environmental injustice compounds social injustice, poverty — a lived reality which too many struggle with — robs people of the financial and emotional space to think beyond the crisis of today, to the crisis of tomorrow. With the SDGs insisting that we recognise interdependence, we are ensuring that our efforts to address climate change recognise this reality.
But as we know, cities and local government face a continued challenge from funding pressures and increased demand. Alongside our partners, leaders across the UK have a huge role to play, and this motion is an important milestone on this journey. We must be empowered to plan, implement, monitor, and adapt to deliver on the SDGs and avert the climate emergency.
Once again, our administration is partnering with councils across the country to lobby Government for the resources to build a better Bristol, country and world.