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Surrey’s Climate Change Strategy Is Not Enough Say Local Activists

Published on: 5 May, 2020
Updated on: 8 May, 2020

Surrey County Council has approved its Climate Change Strategy and hailed it as a “collective approach for how the county can be net zero carbon by 2050”.

It has local support from the R4GV group on Guildford Borough Council and from the Guildford Environment Forum.

But some local climate activists say that it is not enough to prevent climate breakdown and that the public want “action on climate change at least as urgently as has been taken in response to the coronavirus pandemic.”

The leader of Surrey County Council, Tim Oliver (Con, Weybridge).

The leader of Surrey County Council, Tim Oliver, (Con, Weybridge), said: “We must all do our part in the fight against climate change and the scale of our ambitions must reflect the scale of the challenge.

“But for real change and definitive action to meet our targets, we need to work in a coordinated national effort with support and leadership from the government. Together, we can ensure Surrey is cleaner, greener and more resilient, now and into the future.”

Professor Andy Gouldson from the University of Leeds, who had been commissioned by Surrey to work on the strategy, said: “Globally, the science tells us very clearly that we are perilously close to triggering dangerous or runaway climate change.

“Evidence clearly shows that climate action can help Surrey to tackle congestion, improve air quality, enhance the health and wellbeing of residents, stimulate employment, provide better homes and tackle inequality. Instead of thinking why would we act, Surrey should be thinking why wouldn’t we.”

Will the solutions for the economic recovery after the coronavirus crisis converge with the solutions needed for climate change?

Surrey said that the priorities and actions were developed by the local authorities and by engaging with academic partners, residents, businesses, schools and emergency services.

Transport is identified in the strategy as the biggest area for Surrey to tackle, producing 46% of emissions in the county. Housing is said to account for 28% and the target is to achieve a 66% reduction in housing emissions by 2035.

Surrey has also committed to planting 1.2 million trees county-wide, one for every resident. The New Tree Strategy  explains how this will be achieved by collaborating with partners and planting on the council’s own land.

Sam Peters, who represents Extinction Rebellion (XR) on the Surrey Climate Commission, said: “XR Guildford supports the direction of travel with the publication of a climate plan. Unfortunately it is still far from adequate for Surrey to play its part in preventing climate breakdown.

“There is overwhelming evidence that we must be carbon neutral by 2030 to have even a hope of averting runaway climate change, including research from the Centre for the Understanding of Sustainable Prosperity (CUSP) at University of Surrey.

“The public want action on climate change at least as urgently as has been taken in response to the coronavirus pandemic.”

Adrian Thompson from the Guildford Environment Forum, said: “We feel that [the strategy] is a significant step in the right direction, especially as it has involved the input of many boroughs such as Guildford.

“What is needed is the political will and the support of local residents. We believe that the SCC strategy provides the necessary framework.”

Cllr Deborah Seabrook.

Guildford Borough Councillor Deborah Seabrook (R4GV, Merrow) said: “R4GV welcomes the strategy. We are particularly pleased to see that it is not limited to only emissions generated in the borough but includes those emissions from goods and services produced elsewhere but consumed in the area.

“The county and borough councils’ response to the Covid-19 epidemic demonstrates how quickly they can re-assign resources and work together to address an emergency. Whilst climate change effects may be less visible and immediate than coronavirus, it poses no less a threat to our communities, our way of life and our world.

“We call on Guildford Borough Council to allocate sufficient, significant resources to enable the whole borough and encourage its residents to meet the targets set.”

The Lib Dems, Tories and Labour groups on the council were asked to comment but had not responded at the time of publication.

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Responses to Surrey’s Climate Change Strategy Is Not Enough Say Local Activists

  1. Bill Smith Reply

    May 6, 2020 at 9:00 am

    ‘Perilously close to triggering dangerous or runaway climate change’.

    Perilously close is 2030. This is when models show us passing the climate tipping points from which there is no return.

    GBC has understood this and implemented a 2030 carbon neutrality target. Unfortunately, once again we are left with incompetence at the county level undermining the work being done by the boroughs.

    Surrey County Council has demonstrated its inability to tackle climate breakdown not just by setting a pointless target well past the date of climate-related catastrophe, but also through their refusal to divest taxpayers money from fossil fuels, and by granting oil drilling licenses in Surrey.

    Time for an overhaul of this bumbling council with no expertise and no understanding of many of the issues they’re dealing with.

    • Julia Shaw Reply

      May 9, 2020 at 8:52 am

      I totally agree with Bill Smith.

      • Simon Firth Reply

        May 11, 2020 at 11:39 pm

        Indeed, as in the comment from Bill, we need to step up a gear here, 2050 is way too late. 2025 should be the stretch target or carbon neutrality.

        Heavily promote cycling, reduce our dependency on the motor vehicle. Scale-up energy efficiency on all HVAC systems to the latest tech is an easy low-cost way to achieve a big step change.

        As this lockdown has shown many, home working can bring massive cultural and environmental change for the better.

  2. Jules Cranwell Reply

    May 6, 2020 at 11:29 am

    Certainly, GBC’s strategy is going to be a disaster for the environment. Its Local Plan will reap nothing but havoc to our countryside and farmland.

    Hopefully, now that R4GV will take the leadership, we will see the review most residents voted for.

  3. John Perkins Reply

    May 11, 2020 at 12:56 pm

    These would be models such as those used by Imperial College to predict the outcome of diseases. Wrong by a factor of nearly a thousand in one case.

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