In recent weeks there has been plenty of talk from Brighton and Hove City Council’s Green Administration on the topic of climate change, particularly following the release of the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Report.
Among the statements made by the Council, the Green Leader of Brighton and Hove City Council has demanded ‘a seat at the table’ at COP26 - the United Nations’ international climate change conference being hosted in Glasgow this Autumn.
But how much credibility would the Council have at this international event if it was given ‘a seat at the table’?
The most recent rating of Brighton and Hove City Council’s performance on Climate Change suggests the answer is, not very much credibility at all.
For many years now Brighton and Hove City Council has been part of the Carbon Disclosure Project.
The idea of the Project is that Cities across the world have their performance on climate change ranked according to consistent metrics and their performance published online.
Brighton & Hove City Council pays to be a member and no doubt thought it was a good look to join.
However since 2015, the City has never had a result disclosed.
This curious matter was raised by our Conservative Spokesperson on Climate Change Cllr Samer Bagaeen at the recent Council Carbon Neutral Member Working Group, a committee dominated by Green and Labour Councillors who have a Coalition arrangement on climate change policy.
Our Conservative Councillor Cllr Samer Bagaeen sought answers as to why Brighton and Hove City Council’s ranking was not displayed on the website. He put the question directly, asking why the council had been using taxpayers’ money to pay to be a member of the Carbon Neutral Member Working Group but not been disclosing its results.
In response, he was told that the Council did not disclose its performance on Climate Change in the most recent year (2020) because it got a ‘D’.
After ten years of Labour and the Greens running Brighton and Hove, including at least two years in their coalition on climate, this was the best our city could achieve – a D grade. What a poor reflection this is on both the Greens and Labour and their policies in this City.
It is not difficult to see why this City has been ranked so badly on its performance on Climate Change.
The City’s recycling rate is among the worst in the country: Our near neighbours, West Sussex County Council recycles 53% of their household waste, more than double that of Brighton and Hove.
The Council has voted to reduce green space in the city and build on 16 urban fringe sites including Benfield Valley and Coldean Lane, when statistics showed that there was no need to given enough brownfield land had been identified to meet the city’s minimum housing targets.
And the transport policies of the council tend to create more pollution not less: the recent cycle lanes that gridlocked the city are a prime example, while North Street has been ranked the third most polluted street in England out of 1,300 sites tested.
Given this, it is no wonder the City has scored so badly in the Carbon disclosure project.
To turn this around, transparency is key: Whilst it is concerning enough that our City scored a D, what is even more concerning is that Council decided to keep this a secret from the public and not disclose its performance.
Following Cllr Bagaeen’s intervention, we have secured a commitment that Brighton and Hove City Council will publicly report to the Carbon Disclosure Project every year and let its score be known, starting for 2021.
We must make sure that the Council sticks to their word and discloses future results to the public so that everyone can scrutinise how the Labour-Green coalition on climate change is performing. After all, public money is being spent on Brighton and Hove City Council being a member of the Carbon Disclosure Project.
So, with the City’s ‘D’ ranking and recent environmental mistakes, such as severing Europe’s longest Green Wall, is the Brighton & Hove City Council really a position to be demanding a seat at the table at COP26?
Perhaps the Leader of the Council should get his own house in order first before making the trip to Glasgow, because a Council that gets a ‘D’ for its own performance is in no place to start lecturing the world on how to act on climate change.