Making a difference on climate change

Today’s blog comes from Councillor Afzal Shah, ward councillor for Easton and newly appointed Cabinet Member for Climate, Ecology and Sustainable Growth.

Cllr Afzal Shah with Bristol Energy Coop, & Easton Energy Group. Photo by Owen Square, 2016

I’m delighted to be appointed Bristol City Council’s first ever Cabinet Member for Climate, Ecology, and Sustainable Growth. Climate change is of significant personal importance to me and I have a particular interest in raising awareness of water scarcity in developing countries. 

Throughout my time as ward councillor in Easton, I was privileged to take a lead role in the delivery of the low carbon ‘CHOICES’ energy project.

Working alongside Easton Energy Group, we were able to help local residents and businesses reduce their energy usage, assist people facing fuel poverty and aid with their home energy costs.

Bristol is leading by example on climate change.  In 2018, under the leadership of Mayor Marvin Rees, Bristol became the first local authority in the UK to declare a climate emergency. Two years on, we have honoured this commitment by approving a £4 million programme to reduce both the carbon and ecological footprints of our city.

To play our part in Bristol’s One City Climate Strategy, we are taking the lead on several of the delivery areas, including heat decarbonisation and communications. Here, we will bring together partners from across the public, private and voluntary sectors to help deliver the ambition to make the city carbon neutral and climate resilient by 2030.  

Bristol’s businesses have a crucial role to play in tackling climate change. And so do our consumer choices. Companies must continue to act responsibly and sustainably, adapt their business models and lower their carbon footprint. Our city’s businesses – big and small – already play a pivotal role in our city’s growing economy.

But this growth must mature into decarbonised, green, inclusive growth if we are to grow sustainably and ensure that nobody is left behind.

Intentionally ambitious, Bristol’s target to reach carbon neutrality by 2030 is also an opportunity to create greener, cleaner jobs, that channel and encourage sustainability, especially in a post-Covid-19 world.

To meet this target – 20 years ahead of that of central government – will require ongoing investment in sustainable infrastructure. At the heart of this sits city planning – pushing forward with initiatives such as greater heat network connectivity, setting the standard in construction in our city to decarbonise new builds, whilst also considering how we can better transform our transport network to join up the city.  However, we can only rise to this ambitious challenge if personal choices go hand-in-hand with systematic change.

Within our communities – informing, shaping and driving change in infrastructure and behaviour is critical. Together, we will work with partners at the community level too, to push change, raise awareness and educate residents. In recent years, there has been a concerted push towards more sustainable, greener forms of transport, in particular cycling, and residents are now far more conscious, and indeed smarter, about how they heat their homes and the help that is available to them.

Households are recycling more and more, and it was fantastic to see Bristol ranked first out of England’s eight Core Cities for recycling, according to data released by DEFRA earlier this year. Despite the challenges faced by local authorities across the country, we continue to prioritise work on climate change and many of you may be asking yourselves the important question, “What can I do to make the biggest difference?”

On a personal level, there are many actions we can take individually within our homes and our day-to-day to make a difference.

A new resource from Bristol One City –  http://www.bristolclimatehub.org – launching this Friday, 13 November, focuses on actions you can take, as well as stories to guide and inspire us all as we try to make a difference together. I would encourage you to explore the website, add your knowledge and share it with friends, family and colleagues.

We must be ambitious. Just as Bristol led the way in declaring the first climate emergency, it can also lead the way in sustainability. Only by taking action at all levels within our city, we can successfully reduce our collective carbon footprint.

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