Bristol City Council's unanimous vote declaring a Climate Emergency

November 2018

On 13th November Bristol City Council made history by being the first UK city to declare a climate emergency for the city and to make Bristol carbon neutral by 2030. C.H.E.E.S.E. knows it has a unique role to play in the acceleration of decarbonising homes and mitigating worsening fuel poverty across the city. Bristol's Energy guru Nikki Jones has written to Marvin Rees to set the energy context for the city and help to clarity the extent of the challenges we face. In her letter she says:

Dear Mayor and Council

Physics trumps economics. The IPCC tells us that the planet is likely to reach an average of 1.5 degrees warming by 2030 (actually 1.7 - 1.8 from pre-industrial times) and that this temperature has already been reached over most northern land areas. We face extreme heat, extreme cold, extreme precipitation and extreme drought whatever we do now. The question is whether we will limit the damage so that we retain an inhabitable climate.

With regard to how this will impact us just in the UK, this summer we have had a 20% reduction in food production across the world, raising food prices; already extreme weather is costing the UK economy £2 - £4 billion per year in insured and non-insured losses; and just this summer we had around 700 excess deaths linked to the heat wave, and several more deaths with the more recent Storm Conrad. Our Committee on Climate Change is warning us of a metre's sea level rise by 2080 that will affect all our coastal cities and infrastrucutre (including our nuclear plants).

Our scientists are warning us loudly of the extreme dangers likely to occur should we go above 1.5 degrees of warming. This is not a problem just 'for our children and our grandchildren'. This is about our lives. These are changes we are likely to see if we do not cut our greenhouse gases immediately. We do not expect our society to function above 3 degrees of warming, and at 4 - 6 degrees (likely by the end of the century) we will not survive as a species.

There is no greater emergency. We need to be on a war-footing. We need immediate policies to address our power, heating and transport requirements. We need urgent collaboration with surrounding authorities to buy land and re-forest - to sequester carbon and for urgent flood mitigation. Above all, we need public education. Carbon neutrality by 2050 is not sufficient.

Plans to expand the airport are reckless in the extreme. With radiative forcing (ie where we put those greenhouse gas emissions) aviation contributes 5% of global warming. Mr Mayor, you are wrong to say that Bristol airport will be carbon neutral by 2030. ICAO's ambition (under CORSIA) is to off-set the growth in flights from 2020 - not to make the whole industry carbon neutral. Frankly, the linear growth projections of the airport are scandalous and misleading to investors. The airport authorities understand very well the physical and economic risks of climate change, and even the regulatory risk from central government (even if they are lobbying hard against it).

Mr Mayor, you say you are concerned about the low income sections of our society. They are the most vulnerable to climate change, and you do them no favours by not taking leadership on this issue. You will not be thanked if you fail to make the necessary difficult decisions. We need radical and immediate action. The City Leap initiative needs to be turbo-charged, and the date for significant investment needs to be brought forward - in transport and heating/insulation, as well as within-city power production and storage. There are many exciting opportunities and plenty of green finance available at low cost - now.

We rely on you, as our councillors. Please put together a war-footing cabinet so that climate change is prioritised within every aspect of city business. Please see slides from the IPCC 1.5 report, NOAA and Climate Tracker below.

Nikki Jones

Read the draft minutes of the meeting here.

Read coverage of the meeting and it's outcome in this Guardian article.