By Mary Tobin, WEAct member
Woking Environment Action (WEAct) hosted an online Climate Lobby session on 18 June for Woking residents to raise issues with MP Jonathan Lord and discuss wider national policy in the run-up to the UN’s Climate Change Conference (COP26) in November. The session was attended by 18 residents and chaired by Councillor Kevin Davis, Woking Borough Council Portfolio Holder for the Environment.
The focus was very much local, including the following issues raised by attendees:
- 40% of emissions come from housing stock, yet there is very limited progress in Surrey in the retrofitting of housing. Only 7 residents to date have received improvements as part of Green Jump Surrey, which seeks to upgrade the energy efficiency of low income, fuel poor households across the county.
- The Government’s own Climate Change Committee in their latest progress report draws attention to the Government’s failures to adapt homes and calls for the Planning Bill to be amended to ensure that new developments cut emissions and are prepared for rising temperatures.
- There is still too much reliance on the car. Clearly electric cars are more environmentally friendly, but they provide their own challenges, including particulate pollution and battery disposal.
- Why isn’t more done to invest in Woking as a public transport hub, with an integrated network of trains and buses, providing adequate and affordable coverage and service, along with better support for cycling?
- This is already a problem in Woking, as can be confirmed by checking postcodes on the Government website for flood risk.
- With the Climate Change Committee’s recent risk report concluding how unprepared we are in the UK to deal with the increased risk of flooding, what is being done at a borough or constituency level to mitigate this risk in Woking?
- Woking Borough Council has a goal to make its own properties meet climate targets, but nothing about making its procurement partners meet any such targets. Given how much procured services contribute to Woking’s carbon footprint, this seems a major gap to be addressed.
Fossil fuel investment
- A recent International Energy Agency report stated that investment in new fossil fuel production needs to end this year if we are to meet our climate targets, yet many fuel producers are working towards plans of 2% growth a year. How does this fit with the UK’s stated goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 78% by 2035 compared with 1990 levels?
- Pension funds are still investing in fossil fuels – including those of government and local governments such as Surrey County Council. What plans are there to apply conditions on such investments?
Mr Lord and Mr Davis agreed to follow up some of the concerns raised. In particular, Mr Lord committed to writing to the Environment Minister, George Eustice, emphasising the need for more stringent sustainability standards in housing to avoid expensive retrofitting in future.
Although the meeting was productive and Mr Lord and Mr Davies were generous with their time, the overall impression of those attending the session was that not enough was being done soon enough. This was underlined by the Climate Change Committee’s risk report, which identified 60 risks and opportunities that are fundamental to every aspect of life in the UK covering our natural environment, our health, our homes, the infrastructure on which we rely, and the economy. Alarmingly, the actions needed to adapt to a warming world have failed to keep pace with the worsening reality of climate risk; the gap has widened over the past 5 years. The UK has the capacity and the resources to respond effectively to these risks, but it has not yet done so. Acting now will be cheaper than waiting to deal with the consequences, and the Government must lead that action.