Chris Howells, Chair of Bicester Branch, Banbury and Bicester CLP
Chris Howells, Chair of Bicester Branch, Banbury and Bicester CLP

The recent report by the United Nations climate panel of scientific advisers sounded a stark warning for the planet, its governments and us, the people. The extreme  weather we are experiencing world wide is the result of climate change due to  warming of the planet and its unequivocally our fault. The burning of fossil fuel and CO2 emissions is to blame and that is all down to human activity particularly in the western world.

The climate crisis has been with us for years and the time to start tackling it is now.  If we do so then while the increase in global temperature will still exceed the 1.5C warming target by 2030, we can reduce that increase to 1.4C in the next 20-30 years. We have dug ourselves into a hole over the last 70 odd years and we need to stop digging!

So what can we do? The first thing to say is that its no use waiting for our Government to come up with a plan. As individuals and local communities we have to start contributing to reducing carbon emissions. There are many examples emerging around the UK and there is no reason we can’t do the same.

Since transport and travel generates 20% of global CO2 emissions we need first to continue what we started during the pandemic by walking and cycling more and now return to using public transport. Not only is it better for our health as individuals but also for air quality for those around us. That means local authorities at all levels need to invest in the infrastructure need to make it safe and pleasurable.

But its not only personal travel that counts. We also need to think about the need to transport goods and how they are disposed of once used (or not used). We can start by asking if what we need and use is or can be sourced locally, ethically and sustainably and if it can be disposed of without generating CO2.

For example, in addition to collecting and disposing of non-recyclable waste and recyclable plastic and metal (our blue and brown bins), Cherwell Council is to start charging £40pa for collecting and disposing of garden waste while issuing us with new bins for collecting compostable household waste. That sounds like an extra collection journey in the 2 week collection rounds and the bin lorries are still burning fossil fuel.

Some local authorities are starting to use electric collection lorries and the more forward thinking are issuing bins for households to compost their own waste thus saving on collection. A local authority thinking seriously about how to engage its people in tackling climate change should be taking action like this now.

Personally, we should be asking where food is coming from, whether or not we can source it locally and tackle the issue of the plastic much of our food is wrapped in.

The response to the IPCC report  at local level should be refill, recycle, re-use and consider what we throw away can be used to make something else. For example, in the last 60 years the world has produced 8.3Bn metric tonnes of non-recyclable plastic, most of it still around as only 12% has been incinerated.

Following the example of some forward looking communities who are turning non-recyclable plastic into bricks for use as a building material would be a great place to start.  We have votes and we need to ensure those standing for office listen and act on an agenda for tackling climate change locally.

First published as a Bicester Advertiser column from Chris Howells, Chair of Bicester Branch, Banbury and Bicester Constituency Labour Party

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