At the City Council’s meeting on June 11 a resolution calling for a Declaration of a Climate Emergency from Extinction Rebellion, the Green Party and other climate change activists was passed with all-party support.
The resolution included the following:
This Council notes that
The Climate Crisis is an existential threat that requires us to change the way we invest in, grow and sustain our cities and regions.
This Council resolves:
To declare a climate emergency.
To aspire for the City to be net zero carbon by 2030 or as soon after as a just transition permits – making sure we take communities with us, protecting employment and without impoverishing deprived communities.
To constitute a Climate Emergency Task Force to support the Council move from declaration to delivery drawing in cross sector, expertise, capacity and capability to capture the investment and economic opportunity arising from a low carbon future.
As a matter of urgency to review planned Transport, Housing, Waste and Energy Investment plans and policies to ensure they are fit to support a transition to a zero-carbon future with Sustainability and Transport Overview and Scrutiny monitoring progress and to provide an update to Council in November 2019 and annually thereafter.
BATC fully supports XR’s comment that ‘Climate activists are keen to assist with this process, and will hold the Council to account for any slippage in this objective.’ (Tell The Truth About The Climate Crisis, BATC website 25 June.)
But we say No to selling off allotments
At the Council’s all-party (except the Green Councillor) Resources Overview and Scrutiny Committee on 18 July, chaired by Sir Albert Bore, there was a Revenue Budget Management Report. The report included the following Key Issue in the ‘Neighbourhoods Directorate’s forecast overspend’: ‘Parks & Nature Conservation Budget £11.452m. Forecast £12.232m. Variance £0.780m.’
In short, an overspend of £780,000. The plan is to sell off some of the land of Birmingham’s parks to make up the deficit. The report says:
In relation to parks service a past savings initiative regarding the disposal of parks land, £0.600m, has not delivered due to resistance from the community of selected sites. Parks service has identified additional sites for disposal to offset this pressure, however lead time will mean this remains a pressure. (p26)
What land is to be sold off? At the meeting a senior officer explained that it would be ‘vacant allotment sites’. This was agreed, with not a single councillor raising any objection – the same councillors who had voted for the Climate Emergency motion the week before.
Now selling off allotments may seem a minor matter in the context of reducing net carbon emissions to zero, but Extinction Rebellion thinks otherwise. This is what it said in its Briefing Paper to Birmingham City Council (see BATC website 8 June):
The Council should do more to promote allotments, advertising vacant plots locally and providing more support for the volunteers who run them. Allotments are not only carbon absorbing green spaces, but also potentially carbon-neutral food sources, as the inputs and food grown are transported over such short distances as to be offset by the beneficial effect of the green space. In recognition of this value, there should be incentives for managing them efficiently.
We know the Council is under endless pressure from Government budget cuts. We know also that land is needed for new housing. But selling off allotments for a relatively small saving is not an answer. Once sold they are gone for ever.
The Council should immediately abandon any plan to sell off allotments, and, in line with its environmental policies, take effective measures to bring any vacant ones back into community use.