This week: Councillor David Budd, executive member for regeneration and culture at Middlesbrough Council, who also chairs the Association of North East Councils’ task and finish group on climate change.
CLIMATE change is a challenge that affects us all.
And it is something we can all contribute and make a difference to; from the policies and diplomacy of world leaders down to individuals turning off the lights, increasing recycling or improving the insulation in their homes.
The methods about how best to react to climate change and act more environmentally-friendly (while continuing to generate energy and power) provoke much debate but the evidence for climate change is overwhelming.
The most comprehensive and definitive assessment of the scale and impact of climate change ever published - the fourth assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change which involved 2,000 scientists over six years - has concluded that evidence on global warming is “unequivocal”, with the planet having warmed up by 0.74ºC since 1906.
Closer to home, Durham University’s weather observatory has recently revealed that the five years since 2002 are among the hottest ten in Durham since weather records began in the city in 1850.
As the evidence of climate change continues to grow, so too does the imperative that we all, as individuals, communities, companies, councils and Governments, do something about it.
As the new Secretary of State for the Environment, Hilary Benn MP, told councillors at the recent Local Government Association Annual Conference: “Tackling climate change is the greatest challenge of our generation.”
In a joint statement at the conference, Mr Benn and LGA chairman, Sir Simon Milton, added: “As councils and national governments we need to work together with citizens and businesses to provide a clean and green local environment and make sure that we are all tackling climate change and making best use of the world’s limited resources.”
Councils across the North-east are working hard to address climate change.
The Association of North East Councils has set up a working group on climate change. This group will report in six months with findings and recommendations on how the local government sector in the North-east can work collaboratively to make a difference to climate change, for example, through councils’ sharing good working practices, exercising their leadership role and their policies.
The group, which includes Association members from across the region, is focusing on issues such as tackling fuel poverty, energy efficiency, green procurement and the economic benefits of green industries.
And I am delighted that one of the group’s early recommendations has already been adopted by the region’s 25 councils: together with the Association, which is the political voice for local government in the North-east, they have all committed to signing the Nottingham Declaration.
The declaration is a voluntary pledge to address the issues of climate change and represents a broad statement of commitment to take action.
By signing it, councils are demonstrating their commitment to this extremely important issue and their intention to work with others to help cut carbon emissions.
By acting together they can have a major impact on national greenhouse gas emissions and have a positive impact on their communities.
Councils are already working with regional partners to reduce the amount of waste material produced and to maximise the availability and take-up of recycling opportunities, thereby reducing the rate at which resources are depleted.
And they will continue to seek to reduce their own energy consumption, while promoting energy efficiency and increasing the percentage of energy consumed from renewable sources.
While the debate on how to tackle the challenge of climate change continues, we must remain committed to working together if we are to achieve the best possible outcomes.