Report by Councillor Toni Fagan
In March 2019 I stood with about 100 other people on the steps outside Hereford’s Shire Hall listening to a live stream (through a phone and held to a tanoy by a sixth form student) where councillors one by one declared, in the packed hall, their support for a climate emergency.
All of last year I sat with a cross party group of councillors on a Task and Finish group for the council’s Scrutiny Committee looking at how Herefordshire and its council would respond. Our report was presented to the Scrutiny Committee this week.
Some of the evidence we heard was sobering and emotional. The reality of climate and ecological breakdown in our county is far too tangible. We tried to come up with a starting position for action to develop our resilience in the face of what is happening around us. In many instances we realised that policies need to change – alongside behaviour – the enormity of what that requires is daunting – how we need to work together.
At the same time as the Task and Finish group met to discuss the council’s response to the Climate and Ecological Emergency a steering group of interested parties were meeting to help develop the first stages of a Carbon Action Plan for the county. There was no cross-over between the two processes – an omission which, in hindsight, served to highlight the necessity and urgency for collaborative working in this area. The Task and Finish group intend that Herefordshire Council integrate this way of working into how we collectively move forward.
Step by committed-step we can achieve many things, but all these realisations come at a time of intense pressure on public funding – as you would expect in a time of crisis. Yet, we cannot let that stop us, the cost of not doing anything is far greater, so we need to find innovative ways to fund this vital work on multiple levels in our strong and collaborative partnerships.
In the report (scroll to p.15) Councillor William Wilding who chaired the group said:
‘Early on in the process the Task and Finish Group (‘the Group’) identified key subject areas of focus for their work. These areas were communication, Natural Capital, economy and tourism, planning and resilience, transport, community, ecology and agriculture and land use. Both external and internal speakers who are experts in their fields were identified and invited to meetings to present to the Group and discuss these subjects. The recommendations of this report have been categorised under these themes. The Group would like to acknowledge the work of the waste management strategic review and transport strategy review for Hereford. To avoid duplication of work, recommendations have not been made in these specific areas despite being imperative to meeting the climate and ecological emergency. The climate and ecological emergency is a very fast moving subject area with huge amounts of work going on across Herefordshire and the country. This report is a snapshot of the work done by the Group in the timeframe available. It is accepted that with such a large subject area, there is constant advancement and therefore some recommendations may already be in progress and some may have been superseded by new initiatives. Where that is the case, it is welcomed and highlights why a permanent Committee is required.’
Photo by Lisa Wise 2018