A Breath of Fresher Air

With a growing climate crisis, ongoing protests have sparked the conversation about carbon neutrality, especially in the city of Nottingham. I spoke to Councillor Sally Longford, of the Nottingham City Council, about the vision inline for the city. 

Written by Mik Webster-Iacovou|Instagram & Twitter: @mikkebab|Image from: @MyNottingham

Nottingham is set to become a carbon neutral city by 2028. Councillor Sally Longford, holder of the Portfolio of Energy, Environment and Democratic services, is ensuring that not only her ward but the City of Nottingham is eco-friendly and has an active involvement in the prevention of climate change. As Nottingham begins to change, will the world follow?

Nottingham City Council pledges to become the first city in the UK to be Carbon Neutral. The strategy target has been set for 2028. The City has already met its first target for 2020; a 26% reduction of carbon dioxide emissions. Councillor Sally Longford mentioned how not just herself but the entirety of the council is “determined to make it happen”. The council has been working on numerous initiatives to not only cut emissions but decreasing the carbon footprint; such as the ‘Workplace parking levy’. This charges employers that have parking within the workplace. This type of congestion charging has been put in place by the council to tackle the problems faced caused by traffic congestion but to also enhance the funding and investment within the transport services such as NCT Buses, NET Tram extension, and the further redevelopments to Nottingham Station. Even though the Nottingham council is investing a lot of money into the carbon neutral target, the Government holds the keys to the purse; “A lot of the impetus and the investment needs to come from central government”. The Government has set a target for 2050 for all councils to hit a carbon neutral target even though the then Chancellor of the Exchequer, Phillip Hammond ‘warned of a potential cost of £1 trillion by 2050’. It’s clear to see that the Government has got its eyes set on quashing this climate issue however, without the support of the Government, this could slow down the entire project that the city has been working towards. “They have to set the parameters for things like building standards and investment in the right sort of renewable energy to get the best possible benefits for the population.” Cllr Sally Longford expressed how important it is for the government to be more proactive for all cities but especially for Nottingham, as we’re already on the right track.

“We are committed to it and we are determined to make it happen”

Nottingham as a whole has a young population, with a large percent of that young population being students. Nottingham has two universities and two main colleges; one of which being one of the biggest college groups within the country. Students now are fully aware of the climate crisis, so much so, more students are getting involved in more sustainable projects and having a lot more enthusiasm for the climate. Cllr Longford highlighted the meeting with the two vice chancellors of the universities; ‘who are both committed to reducing their carbon emissions.’ Due to the high levels of enthusiasm from students, the chancellors realised that “their students will be driving them to it”. Students have been advised to maintain a proactive means of living within their accommodation. Cllr Longford recommended that students should be “recycling their waste properly”. The councillor jokingly mentioned how “students are renowned for not managing their waste well”. Considering students are now fully aware of the issues surrounding misplaced waste not just on the environment but the area around them. Students were urged to check with their landlords, if staying within rented accommodation, to see if the landlord has a good renewable energy contract. Saving you, the student money but also lowering one’s carbon footprint down. Another was “using public transport, cycling and walking.” With both universities being around the city centre, links such as the tram and bus routes are fairly quick and reliable. Tram stops and bus stops are located outside both universities and around the majority of their campuses. Students also receive subsidised rates. 

The council has been doing a lot of work to maintain and sustain the management of recycling. “The blocks of apartments have been put behind in terms of their recycling”. The council has a statutory duty to collect recycling on a weekly basis however, with an ‘orange bag’ scheme, this has slowed down the process. It was described as being ‘behind the times’ and ‘old’. However, there’s a more sustainable solution that the council has set to introduce and that is rolling out “recycling facilities at all Student accommodation and apartment blocks across Nottingham”. Within Nottingham, we have numerous parks and gardens such as Highfields. Nottingham City Council is starting a regeneration project within the gardens of Highfields and other parklands and gardens. More specifically, the Tottle Brook area on the grounds of Highfields. The council as a collective, with the support of the locals are set to plant more trees; “Looking at more places to plant more trees…it’ll increase the areas biodiversity”. 

“This is the most pressing problem facing humanity”

Cllr Sally Longford, dEPUTY lEADER OF Nottingham City Council

Climate change as a whole, is affecting everyday life,being described as “the most pressing problem facing humanity across the globe”. However, after speaking to a representative from the Nottingham Revolutionary Communist Group, the thoughts of a carbon neutral city by 2028 sounds too good to be true. The spokesman raised comments about other issues within Nottingham, such as a housing crisis and homelessness; “All of the issues within the city could be solved at the same time”. Without the full support from the government, this climate crisis will prevail, there will be more protests, more civil unrest, until this climate emergency is resolved. The spokesman mentioned about the climate strikes around the UK as well as Nottingham: “If more was to be done, there wouldn’t be the need to have these strikes”. He also highlighted the ‘need for a movement to challenge the institutions fuelling the climate crisis’; institutions in the UK including: “The banks, the businesses, the large corporations”. Companies such as BP and Barclays hold a huge position when it comes down to the climate crisis. Not just nationally but globally. According to The Guardian, Barclays invests more than £26.3 billion in fossil fuel projects, meaning Barclays have a huge part to play when financing a climate crisis. In terms of what the message is from the NRCG (Nottingham Revolutionary Communist Group), there is a bigger battle to fight. Striking and protesting outside a council house is a great start, however in order to win this climate crisis, fighting and protesting against those that do cause the most harm to the planet, will create a huge impacting effect for the cause. Implying that these two companies for example need to be targeted, whether in a peaceful manor or using violence and causing turmoil, that’s all down to the protesters. And regardless of the strength and integrity of the climate strikers, those that want change, will do absolutely anything in order to do so. 

With less than two months until 2020, will Nottingham City Council and Cllr Longford’s targets and aims be met? Especially with a general election on the horizon, how will the future government help support cities such as Nottingham, who are already said to be on course to become carbon neutral, and help enhance the rate at which we become carbon neutral. One thing the government, both local and national, need to do is listen to the youth. Unlike our Scottish counterparts, the voting age is 18; yet one of the leading figures of the youth climate protests is aged 16. As this current generation of teenagers, sit back and watch the damage being done, we need to be allowed to have a voice, as it is our future at risk.

Is there such a thing as an eco-friendly world? If we can use sustainable methods and be efficient with our resources than that’ll be the beginning of a brighter future, not just for the people, but for the earth. Like the projects put in place by Cllr Longford and Nottingham City Council, planting trees and looking after the forestry is a key part to play in investing back into your ecosystem. Even though the government set local councils a deadline in 2050 to become carbon neutral, on the other hand, according to ‘Solar Impulse Foundation’, It’s estimated that due to climate disasters, there will be over 250 million ‘climate refugees’. 

After reading an article by writer Mike Ashley, not to get confused with the owner of Sports Direct and Newcastle United, the ideology of a better world has helped create a generation of people who will do anything for that idea of the ‘perfect world’. ”Mankind’s endless quest for a better life and more perfect world, has been a primary driving force for the progress of the human race. And one hopes that the quality of life for each new generation will improve.” The youth are now opening their eyes. This isn’t a dream. When a 16 year old girl stands on stage at a UN Summit and demands governments across the world for climate justice, wouldn’t you say, this is the beginning of the climate revolution or time to make our world a better place.

Could the reality of a greener world really exist? Or is it just in the mind of writers and dreamers? Will the international climate movement help save the world or will we be too late? Maybe all that is needed is a push, the youth need to be listened to and not shunned. As there may come a time when our last breath of clean air is just that.


Magazine and website celebrating Nottingham's stories.

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