Environmental groups from across the West Midlands have called on Birmingham City Council to do more to tackle climate change, with one describing the response so far to the climate emergency as ‘inadequate’.However the council has hit back, branding the groups’ comments “out of touch, not to say ill-informed.”On June 11 last year Birmingham City Council declared a ‘Climate Emergency’, with the council setting a target to become carbon neutral by 2030.Since then the authority says it has invested significantly in public transport to reduce dependency on private car; worked with partners to create sprint bus rapid transit routes on the A34 and A38 and taken forward new and improved rail stations including those on the camp hill line to increase capacity and reliability.

They also pointed to the electrification of the National Express bus fleet, the rolling out of hydrogen buses next year and the imminent installation of 394 charging points for electric vehicles as evidence of their commitment to the cause.

However, organisations such as Climate Action Network West Midlands seem far from convinced by the council’s claims.

“Are they serious?” a spokesperson said.

During the Covid-19 crisis, Birmingham Council has shown that it can act quickly and effectively to protect citizens health and wellbeing.

“The far more dangerous climate crisis may have dropped out of the news, but it has not gone away.

“The council unanimously declared a Climate Emergency in June 2019 and set up a “Task Force” to create an action plan to reach “net zero” carbon emissions from transport, waste, homes and industry by 2030.

“After lots of meetings and money on consultants, we still have no action plan. Hardly anyone in the city even knows we are officially in a Climate Emergency.

“Birmingham is not alone in struggling to take action to prevent climate chaos.

“The Government, WMCA and hundreds of other UK councils have declared a climate emergency, but few have taken meaningful action.”

Footsteps – Faiths for a Low Carbon Future is a faith-based group in Birmingham, and has also voiced its concerns over the council’s perceived lack of action.

“Given the climate emergency, progress has been slow, particularly in obtaining the resources required to make Birmingham a sustainable and inclusive city,” spokesperson Chris Martin said.

“The council now needs to provide leadership and vision, not only for areas under its own direct influence but also for those related to the West Midlands Combined Authority and the National Government.

“The matter of rising global temperatures has only become more prescient as the years have gone by.

“Yet, almost a year on from the declaration of a Climate Emergency by Birmingham City Council, we have been disappointed to see an entirely inadequate response from our local council and its so-called taskforce.

“Instead of connecting with long-standing community groups and organisers to develop a true community-led response, based on the principles of social and climate justice, we have seen no substantial changes to our council’s policies or practices.

“The Coronavirus pandemic has shown the best of our community, through mutual aid work by campaigns or cafes and neighbours looking out for one another – it’s time for our city council to reflect these efforts by moving beyond empty statements to taking progressive action on climate breakdown.

“We call on Birmingham City Council to properly commit to ambitious action on the climate crisis, based on the principles of social justice and the welfare of our communities.

“We additionally demand more urgent discussion with local groups and trade unions to rapidly determine the necessary structural changes for a just transition.”

The council says while progress has been somewhat slowed due to the impact of Covid-19, it has still taken action ‘to widen pavements in local centres, create pop-up cycle lanes across the city and to restrict through-traffic in the city centre and residential neighbourhoods.’

However Birmingham Labour for a Green New Deal say that they have seen no real changes to policy, and have urged the council to start taking action now.

“Almost a year on from the declaration of a Climate Emergency by Birmingham City Council, we have been disappointed to see an entirely inadequate response from our local council and its so-called taskforce.

“Instead of connecting with long-standing community groups and organisers to develop a true community-led response, based on the principles of social and climate justice, we have seen no substantial changes to our council’s policies or practices.

“We believe that the climate crisis must be addressed through a transformative and bold agenda: one that takes account of our responsibilities to our planet; one that guarantees a just transition for workers across our city; and one which centres social justice and our most under-resourced communities.

“The Coronavirus pandemic has shown the best of our community, through mutual aid work by campaigns or cafes and neighbours looking out for one another – it’s time for our City Council to reflect these efforts by moving beyond empty statements to taking progressive action on climate breakdown.

“We call on Birmingham City Council to properly commit to ambitious action on the climate crisis, based on the principles of social justice and the welfare of our communities.

“We additionally demand more urgent discussion with local groups and trade unions to rapidly determine the necessary structural changes for a just transition.”

Responding to the comments, a spokesperson for Birmingham City Council said: “The council continues to show its commitment to taking a leading role, playing its part, and working with individuals, communities, businesses, partners, and others across the city and region to act now on the causes and impacts of the climate emergency.

“Given all we are doing these comments seem a little out of touch, not to say ill-informed.

“The city council continues to work towards the city becoming net zero carbon and, to achieving a ‘just transition’ ensuring we reduce inequalities in the city and bring our communities with us. This is the city’s ‘route to zero’ (R20).

“At the same time the council’s cabinet agreed to add a new priority to the council plan which states that Birmingham will be ‘a city that takes a leading role in tackling climate change’.

“This commitment embeds climate action in the council’s decision-making process to make sure that all service areas contribute to the R20 journey, overseen by a cross-party climate change taskforce.”