On 11 June 2019 Birmingham City Council declared a climate emergency. But what is the climate emergency all about and what is Birmingham doing about it?
It’s evident that planet is heating up fast. 2019 was the second warmest year on record. Humans are having a negative impact on the planet – The greenhouse gas emissions we generate from things like transport and burning fossil fuels are all contributing to high levels of CO2 in our atmosphere and causing the earth’s rapidly changing climate, resulting in poor air quality and negative effects on our health.
Action is needed now to reduce our carbon emissions, to slow down the effects of climate change, improve our health and ensure a better world for future generations. Last year Birmingham set a target to become net zero carbon by 2030, studies have proven that this will be very challenging and many feel that the council needs to do more to hit this target. Councillor Waseem Zaffar said “Whilst the challenges of achieving the 2030 date are recognised, we are still committed to achieving net zero carbon as soon as possible and in advance of the national target of 2050 and the regional target of 2041 set by the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA)” The Route to Zero (R20) Taskforce agree that this will require bold actions and huge changes from us all and are currently working with the council.
Lockdowns since March resulted in a huge drop in pollution levels. There was a massive uptake in walking and cycling. People have experienced the huge health and wellbeing benefits of getting outside, and as things start to return to a ‘new normal’, we have the opportunity to build back better. The government has responded with increased spending on making it safer and easier for people to choose active travel (non-motorised travel such as walking, cycling and scooting.)
Birmingham has an Emergency Transport Plan in place, setting out what the city needs to do differently to work towards a sustainable, low carbon, clean air future. The plan has a strong focus on active travel, reducing congestion and improving air quality. We are seeing lots of changes being made to roads and streets across the city.
These changes include repurposing road space for walking, cycling and social distancing. Widening pavements, an e-scooter trial scheme in the City Centre and pop- up cycle lanes. The introduction of low traffic neighborhood measures like safer pedestrian crossings and planters on roads to re–direct motor traffic off residential streets, aim to create places for people. Birmingham is creating greener, safer and healthy environments where communities can enjoy being outside and find walking, cycling or using public transport more appealing.
Over the next few months we will be following these changes closely and speaking to local people to see how they are having an impact on daily life. There is hope that if we all work together through the development stages, giving constructive feedback, these measures could be a positive way forward for the environment and our future. While we understand that not everyone is able to walk or cycle, and cars are needed for certain journeys, the current changes are making it possible for those who can, to choose active travel. In turn, the measures will result in cleaner air, less pollution and a safer environment for everyone.
You can find what’s happening across the city and have your say here: https://bit.ly/CommonPlace_HaveYourSay
It is vital to the consultation process that you leave your feedback if any changes or improvements are to be made.