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Birmingham City Council’s actions since declaring a climate emergency

Birmingham City Council declared a climate emergency on June 11th 2019.  Since then, everything has gone quiet, although we were aware that they had established a Task Group (called R20 – Route to Zero) to take actions forward.  They did not invite Extinction Rebellion, nor Friends of the Earth to participate in the Task Group.

However, I learnt today that the Council set up an on-line consultation survey in January 2020 and that the deadline for responding to it has now passed.  The link to complete the survey was as follows:

https://www.birminghambeheard.org.uk/economy/climate-emergency-citizen-survey/

though I am not sure if the link is still active.

They are also doing a number of other things:

Sandpits Workshops

These are policy development sessions on key themes, with the aim of providing Taskforce members, officers, experts, and key partners and stakeholders with the opportunity to share knowledge and understanding of what is already known, how that helps the Task Group, and what else needs to be explored.  The following is a table of the workshops to be held:

Theme

Provisional date
NB: sessions will be ~3 hrs

Location

Housing

27 Feb (AM)

University of Birmingham

Transport

26 Feb (PM)

UoB

Planning/development and regulation

24 Feb (PM)

UoB

Education, skills and employment pathways

TBC (Mar)

UoB

East Birmingham and North Solihull (EBNS)

17 Mar

EBNS (visit)

Engagement

TBC (early Mar)

STEAMhouse

 To attend one of the workshops individuals need to be nominated by an organisation, who then needs to contact Rose Horsfall: Rose.Horsfall@birmingham.gov.uk. However, all of the dates above were postponed to March.

In addition, the R20 Task Force wants to set up citizen engagement sessions:

Invitation to convene a community conversation

“In April we would like further citizen engagement to be undertaken and are inviting Taskforce members to express their interest in convening community conversations which the Council will provide financial support for.

These sessions will take place following the engagement sandpit in March where we will be sharing good practice and learning to explore in depth how best to engage with our citizens on this agenda, including identifying target audiences across the city.

Please contact Naomi (Naomi.Todd@birmingham.gov.uk) if you would be interested in convening a session.”

Birmingham City Council had a debate in full council meeting on the work of the Task Force on 4th February 2020.  It can be viewed at http://civico.net/birmingham/democratic-services/8971  starting at 2 hours 07 minutes in the track.

National Climate Assembly UK

The second weekend of the National Climate Assembly took place in Birmingham on the weekend of 22nd-23rd Feb 2020. For further details and to view the session follow this link: Weekend 2.



 Update 11th March 2020:

I have heard through my contacts that several members of the R20 Task Force are extremely unhappy about its progress and at the shambolic way it is taking the agenda forward. The letter below to the Chairman of the Task Force perhaps reflects these frustrations:

“TYSELEY INCINERATOR:Beyond The Pale

As members of the Taskforce we are writing to you as chair to express our concern that Birmingham City Council has started the process for procuring a new contractor to run, maintain and refurbish the Tyseley Incinerator, and is asking for another 10 year contract. 

What Birmingham City Council and the wider city does with its waste will play a vital part in tackling the climate emergency. Reducing the amount of waste produced, increasing the amount of waste used as a resource through re-use and recycling, and reducing the amount going to incineration are all key to a low carbon future.

Therefore we have a number of concerns about the council starting this procurement:

1) Our first concern is about process. The motion passed by the City Council declaring the climate emergency called on the council to “review planned Transport, Housing, Waste and Energy Investment plans and policies to ensure they are fit to support a transition to a zero-carbon future”. Starting the procurement process for a continuation of the status quo this ageing and inefficient incinerator does not seem to show any evidence of reviewing planned investment plans and policies. Furthermore, starting this procurement process before the Task Force has finished its work,  and before the Climate Action Plan is drafted and approved by Full Council, feels premature and effectively putting the cart before the horse.

 2) We feel the length of the contract is also problematic. It locks the city council into using the Tyseley incinerator for at least 10 more years. This allows little flexibility when new technologies become available or an ability to wind down from using the incinerator in that time. Additionally, the end of the contract is 4 years after council is seeking to be zero carbon.
 3) We note the changing national policy context. The Council is very probably going to have to introduce a food waste collection. Once food waste is taken out of the residual waste stream, it will dramatically reduce the amount of waste going to the incinerator. In this context is it viable to have this incinerator? Particularly when there is spare incineration capacity elsewhere in neighbouring local authorities.
 4) Continuing with the Tysleley incinerator could make it difficult to significantly increase recycling rates and reduce the amount of waste produced. Having an incinerator, particularly with the wrong contract, can act as a disincentive to reducing waste and increasing recycling.
 5) Continuing to use the site for an incinerator precludes using the site for any other purpose, which could make use of being next to and linked into the neighbouring Tyseley Energy Park.
 6) Finally this 25 year old incinerator is a very high polluting and high carbon emitting way of dealing with residual waste. This has an impact on the air quality of the surrounding area and contributes to continuing carbon dioxide emissions in the city to 2034 and beyond.
 We acknowledge the challenges facing local authorities in terms of capacity, know how, powers and resources when tackling the climate emergency and achieving net zero. However, we believe there are the means within the city council, its allies on the taskforce and the wider region to resolve the  challenges of waste management in a much better way than this.  We urge the council to act in line with its commitments rather than trampling all over them with this current tender.”


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Birmingham City Council declares a Climate Emergency

After much campaigning from environmental groups, such as Extinction Rebellion, Friends of the Earth, Climate Action West Midlands, a cross-party motion was debated by the Council on June 11th 2019 and passed unanimously.

Coinciding with the debate was a demonstration outside the Council House, by various groups, including young people, and the presentation of a petition from Extinction Rebellion, which was signed by over 3,000 people, calling for the Council to:

  1. Debate the climate emergency motion at full council;
  2. Pledge to make the city of Birmingham carbon neutral by 2025;
  3. Call on Westminster to provide the powers and resources to make this target achievable;
  4. Work with other local authorities on methods to limit Global Warming to less than 1.5°C;
  5. Work with partners across the West Midlands to deliver this goal;
  6. Report to Full Council within six months with the actions the Council will take to address this emergency.

Birmingham

This is a brief interview conducted outside the Council House by the BBC’s Regional programme Midlands Today:

https://www.dropbox.com/s/urz1aypui8cvd5o/2019-06-11%20BCC%20Climate%20Emergency%20Petition%20BBC%20Midlands%20Today%2013-30.mp4?dl=0

The knowledge about the imminent presentation of this petition triggered councillors into presenting their own cross-party motion for debate on 11th June.

The motion debated was as follows:

To consider the following Motion of which notice has been given.
Councillors Robert Alden, Roger Harmer, Julien Pritchard and Lisa Trickett as proposers and Councillors Jon Hunt, Suzanne Webb and Waseem Zaffar as seconders have given notice of the following Notice of Motion:-

“This Council notes that
• The Climate Crisis is an existential threat that requires us to change the way we invest in, grow and sustain our cities and regions.
• The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report published in October 2018 set out the devastating consequences for the planet if it warmed more than 1.5C – with increased extreme weather with heatwaves and floods driving mass migration and global insecurity; the catastrophic social and ecological impacts worsening for
every degree of warming.
• The impact of climate change will not just be felt in far-away lands or coastal areas, the impact on Birmingham residents of increased extreme weather events, including flooding, droughts and heatwave is likely to be profound, with increasing risks to both life and property. Given our global footprint and the diversity of the city the climate crisis will hit at the heart of families and communities within the city.
• Given the planet is currently heading for 3-4C warming, keeping to 1.5C requires a radical shift across energy, land, industrial, urban and other systems to reduce emissions, unprecedented in history for the breadth, depth and speed of change required.
• All governments (national, regional and local) have a duty to limit the negative impacts of Climate Breakdown and in recognising this local government should not wait for national government to change their polices. It is important for the residents of Birmingham, the Region and the UK that cities commit to zero carbon as quickly as possible.
• Birmingham and the West Midlands, as the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution and a global player in the development of green technology, is ideally placed –- and has a moral responsibility to lead a new Green
Industrial Revolution that delivers clean and inclusive growth.
• Birmingham City Council has already made progress in addressing the issue of Climate Change, having adopted a target to cut Carbon Dioxide emissions by 60% by 2027 from a 1990 baseline and has already cut emissions by 33% (as of 2015).
• Unfortunately, current plans and actions are not enough. Transition in time requires a system change that drives decarbonisation whilst delivering justice and jobs.

A group of young people demonstrating outside the Council House

After debating the motion, the Council resolved:
• To declare a climate emergency.
• To aspire for the City to be net zero carbon by 2030 or as soon after as a just transition permits – making sure we take communities with us, protecting employment and without impoverishing deprived communities.
• To work with the WMCA and seek from the UK Government the powers and resources to help Birmingham deliver the 2030 net zero carbon ambition for a just transition.
• That the Council will lead by example and seek to be net zero carbon by 2030 – again ensuring that this is just – taking communities with us, protecting employment and without impoverishing deprived communities.
• To constitute a Climate Emergency Task Force to support the Council move from declaration to delivery drawing in cross sector, expertise, capacity and capability to capture the investment and economic opportunity arising from a low carbon future.
• To quickly set in place a process of engagement and collaborative action that enables the Task Force to bring forward to Full Council in January 2020 a plan that sets out how the aspiration for the City and the ambition of the Council to be net zero carbon by 2030 can be best achieved.
• As a matter of urgency to review planned Transport, Housing, Waste and Energy Investment plans and policies to ensure they are fit to support a transition to a zero-carbon future with Sustainability and Transport Overview and Scrutiny monitoring progress and to provide an update to Council in November 2019 and annually thereafter.”



The Council motion had watered down some of XR’s demands, such as the target date for becoming Carbon Neutral – 2030, as opposed to 2025 – but this is a closer target than that being promoted by Parliament.  Another request from XR was to debate the issues in a Citizens’ Assembly.  Details of this can be found in XR’s Briefing paper, which was sent to every member of the Council in advance of the Council meeting.  Copies of this paper, which outlines what other local authorities are doing, can be provided on request – or downloaded from the shared drive mentioned below.


The 38 degrees website was used to collate most of the signatures to the petition.  Their summary of the Council response is:

On Tuesday 11th June Birmingham City Council declared a climate emergency!
All 83 councillors who turned up to the meeting (out of possible 101) voted for the motion. Extinction Rebellion were named as part of the debate and the young people involved in the school climate strike were referenced multiple times. Many councillors spoke and covered a range of topics including energy, transport, education, housing, waste, divestment of pension funds and investment and system change. The petition was submitted with over 3000 signatures.
This decision has placed the UK’s second largest city on the climate crisis map of those willing to take action. Thank you so much for your support so far! Now we must ensure that action happens! If you want to stay involved, here are a few of the local groups that will continue to support, monitor and put pressure on the council:
https://www.facebook.com/birminghamfoe/
https://www.facebook.com/extinctionrebellionbirmingham/
https://www.facebook.com/CANWM/
https://www.facebook.com/bhamyouthstrike4climate/
https://www.facebook.com/ecobirmingham/
https://www.facebook.com/FootstepsBCF/

Please do reply to this email if you have any questions! And thank you once again for taking part in this campaign!

https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/birmingham-city-council-declare-a-climate-emergency-and-take-action-1



Subsequent to this motion being passed by the Council, information has been received that it is setting up a Task Force, meeting for the first time on October 17th 2019. Various groups have been invited to send representatives onto the Task Force.  Unfortunately, Extinction Rebellion is not one of them, though some XR members will represented on other groups, such as Climate Action West Midlands, Footsteps, Green Coalition, Client Earth.  Friends of the Earth is another organisation not invited onto the Task Force.

See: https://www.birmingham.gov.uk/news/article/472/birmingham_climate_taskforce_announced

A small group of Birmingham citizens from some of the above organisations has been meeting regularly in workshop format to prepare material to submit to the Task Force.  It includes information/recommendations collated from a whole range of documents, which can be found on a shared drive at:

https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1JN_bwrzV47StsjBtYYxg_B-oIKqvOUNJ

As this work progresses, further information will be shared on this site.