8 Aug 2011

Council must provide leadership and resources to combat climate change

The Brent Green Party has submitted the following in response to the Council's consultation on the Green Charter:

A. Brent Green Party welcomes the initiative of Brent Council in opening up for consultation a proposed Green Charter. Unfortunately, we do not find that the current draft goes far enough and with appropriate sense of urgency in promoting or facilitating the lifestyle and social change that is required for the Borough of Brent to make its full and due contribution in meeting the challenge facing the world of reversing the present rapid deteriorating world environment, integral with which is the phenomenon of man-made global warming. This latter which, if not faced head on and forthwith at all levels, is likely to result in a largely uninhabitable planet within the life-time of children being born today.

B. Brent Green Party’s response here is directed towards the kind of radical, joined-up social and political change that should be aimed at all levels of society. The current draft is not sufficiently ambitious in this regard and needs to convey the need for a holistic approach in all aspects of human activity - energy efficiency in the home, localisation of food production, the development of habitable spaces which take into account the long term impact of transport policy and construction. Whilst we take education to be at the heart of this agenda, we also recognise that good policy has the power to shape individual and social action of the right kind, to make it easier for people to do the right thing and take local initiatives that spread good practice and ideas. The local transition towns initiatives in Brent are of just this inspiration. In contrast, the policy decisions taken by the current administration on the Civic Centre bring into question their recognition of the scale of the challenge represented by, in particular, climate change and the need to meet this challenge in the shortest practicable time-scale.
C. Our proposals below focus around investment in long-term jobs in green industry and services, as part of a package of Green New Deal solutions. The Green Charter as presently formulated puts the onus on residents to take action, which is a necessary part of the equation, but neglects the role of the local authority in providing both strong committed leadership and the resources necessary to implement real change. We ask Brent to build into its Charter the following programme:

1. The Council to implement a systematic programme of high quality roof and wall insulation, double-glazing and draught exclusion in its social housing sector.
2. The Council to make a street-by-street offer to private residents/tenants of a similar programme reducing the cost through economies of scale.
3. The Council to work with local colleges to provide training/apprenticeships in green technology.
4. The Council to provide incentives to local business to reduce excess packaging at source and to recycle waste
5. The Council to provide incentives for green businesses to locate in Brent, particularly in the regeneration areas.
6. The Council to extend the 're-use' aspect of recycling at local recycling plants by means of a warehouse to store household goods and furniture that can be re-used by residents and retailers for onward trading.
6. The Council to work with schools on making their buildings energy efficient and adopting 'green' curriculum which would see pupils as agents in the education of parents as well as giving them a role in managing the school environment in a sustainable way. This to be launched through a Climate Change And Education Conference open to teachers, student groups, governors and green community organisations.
7. The Council to set aside land in larger parks for community allotments and on under-used land such as railway embankments, derelict building sites and common areas on estates. The Metropolitan Housing allotments on the Chalkhill estate are a good example.
8. The Council to set aside land in parks for wildlife conservation and encourage schools to set up wildlife gardens

D. We reiterate our well-known opposition to the new Civic Centre on the grounds of its affordability and that its 'green credentials' have not taken into account the environmental costs of the raw materials, manufacturing and construction necessary to deliver the completed building.

E. At a more general level, Brent Green Party supports the One Planet Living Framework developed by BioRegional and WWF with the objective of helping people and organisations live and work within a fair share of our planet’s resources. We suggest this framework would be an excellent point of reference for drawing up the next draft of the Brent Green Charter.

In particular, we draw attention to the following important general objectives in formulating particular relevant proposals applicable to the Borough of Brent:

1.  Making buildings more energy efficient and delivering all energy with renewable technology.
2.  Reducing waste, reusing where possible, and ultimately sending zero waste to landfill.
3.  Encouraging low carbon modes of transport to reduce emissions, reducing the need to travel.
4. Using sustainable healthy products, with low embodied energy, sourced locally, made from renewable or waste resources.
5.  Choosing low impact, local, seasonal and organic diets and reducing food waste.
6.  Using water more efficiently in buildings and in the products we buy, tackling local flooding and watercourse pollution.
7. Protecting and restoring biodiversity and natural habitats through appropriate land use and integration into the built environment.
8.  Reviving local identity and wisdom and supporting and participating in the arts.
9.  Creating bioregional economies that support fair employment, inclusive communities and international fair trade.
10. Encouraging active, sociable, meaningful lives to promote good health and wellbeing.

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