Open letter to Norfolk County Council, January 2018
CHAIN's letter to Norfolk County Council on the scandalous decision to take money away from investment in renewable energy and use it for the vastly over-budget Northern Distributor Road, dated 03 January, 2018:
To members of the Policy and Resources Committee,
We are writing to you as Committee members of CHAIN (Climate Hope Action In Norfolk), a local group originally founded by doctors and dedicated to raising awareness of, and campaigning for action on, climate change.
We would like to voice our strong objection to the decision at November’s Policy and Resources Committee to redirect capital investment of £7.25 million away from investment in renewable energy through Norfolk Energy Futures, and instead into making up the shortfall in the Northern Distributor Road (NDR) budget.
We note that in July’s meeting of the Committee, the liquidation of Norfolk Energy Futures was justified on the grounds that the transfer of these activities to the Corporate Property Team would “enable a more robust and joined up approach to delivering renewable energy projects, particularly in relation to the County Council’s property estate”. The withdrawal of this investment would seem to firmly contradict that aim.
We understand, and are deeply concerned, that the fact that the NDR has gone so over-budget presents some unpalatable financial choices. However, to cut investment in reducing Norfolk’s carbon emissions, and instead invest that money in a project which will increase Norfolk’s carbon emissions by 6%, runs completely contrary to international commitments the UK has made to tackle climate change and puts us on a dangerous path of carbon-intensive development.
The UK is legally committed to reducing carbon emissions by 80% by 2050, yet it is far from clear how Norfolk County Council aims to play its part in achieving that goal. While there are mentions of climate change in the Council’s Policies and Strategies, it is clear that the scale of the task requires a far greater level of commitment, as well as a focus on mitigation as well as adaptation. Further, the commitments made as part of the Paris agreement will have to be improved on if we are to keep overall temperature increases below 3[degrees]C - existing commitments are intended to provide a basis for deeper reductions. We in fact need to see emissions on a firmly downward path by 2020, and CHAIN is launching its own ‘Bend the Curve Norfolk’ campaign to see how this can be achieved.
Given this context, it is vitally important that Councillors and politicians at every level of government understand the urgency of acting on climate change and the huge dangers if the measures we take aren’t sufficient. Government, including that at local level, needs to be far more proactive in informing the public about the very real consequences of rising temperatures, the huge threat this poses to our health and indeed our very survival, and the particular threat to Norfolk from sea level rise which will likely mean large areas under water by the end of the century. There needs to be increased public awareness of the positives of a low carbon economy, such as a proven capacity for job creation and improvements in public health, as well as actions and lifestyle changes that we as individuals can make to play our part in reducing CO2 pollution.
If climate change was placed where it should be, at the heart of the County Council’s strategy, we would argue that decisions such as redirecting investment away from renewable energy into roads would not be considered in any way justifiable. Indeed, we hope the very little comment that this decision has attracted from council members or the media is not symptomatic of a wider downgrading of the issue of climate change.
As part of your upcoming budget setting process, we strongly urge you to rethink this decision and following this, over the coming year, undertake a thorough review of the Council’s approach to climate change so that similar decisions are not repeated. The Council needs to reappraise its priorities and focus on developments which reduce greenhouse gas emissions rather than the construction of roads which will increase them.
We would welcome the chance to talk to members about this issue, perhaps in the form of a presentation, and see how we can help Norfolk achieve the sharp reductions in CO2 pollution which are so urgently needed, both locally and nationally.
Dr Hayley Pinto (Chair)
Dr Jo Veltman (Campaigns Co-ordinator)
Cat Darsley (Publicity Officer)
Stephen Little (Secretary)
Helen Carter (Treasurer)
James Graham (Committee Member)
On behalf of CHAIN (Climate Hope Action In Norfolk)
Hear more from CHAIN co-founder, Dr Jo-anne Veltman, at around 52:30 of this BBC Radio Norfolk show: www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p05qr6kv