Declaring a climate emergency is a first step – but the rest of the journey needs cooperation

Labour and Cooperative Party parliamentary candidate for Reading West Rachel Eden writes for SERA on taking action cooperatively to tackle the climate emergency.

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Taking real action to protect the climate is difficult and can be controversial.  Phillip Hammond’s claim that it would cost £1 trillion to get net emissions to zero may or may not stand up to scrutiny but it is undeniable that tackling this emergency will have costs.

That is why we need a bold and clear Labour response to this nationally – with the Green New Deal being announced and tackling climate change at the heart of many policies. 

However, we also need to take action where Labour is in power now.  We may have to wait almost 3 years for a general election and after 9 years of grand claims and small actions from first the coalition and then the Conservative government we can’t afford to wait.

Earlier this year I was proud to second our motion to Reading Borough council declaring a climate emergency.  However, the fact that it got support from all parties while in some ways was encouraging in many other ways it reflects the problem.  Rhetoric costs nothing, and declaring an emergency is politically popular. 

However, following it up with real action and putting the climate emergency at the heart of our council’s approach is going to be tough when we face many other challenges and we are sure to find that some proposals will be controversial.

In Reading, we are looking at all areas of the council – from waste, to transport to our inhouse services and we’re hoping to be even more radical than we’ve already been.

To make this work we need to bring the community with us, so we aim to work cooperatively.

We’ve set up a new forum for cleaner air and transport focused on reducing emissions and all committees, portfolios and officers will be playing their part.  I’m a director of a small energy generation cooperative on behalf of the council and we’re investing in their expansion (https://readingenergy.coop/) –Jason our new leader has said he wants to double the size of the coop sector in our town, and this is exactly the sort of Coop that can grow to meet Reading’s needs.

I believe that only by working together we can actually get the real system change that we need.  We need to bringing together groups that are pushing for more radical action as well as those who might not want us to make too many changes, because of the impact on them.  Both groups can sometimes be cynical of councils and politicians – often in different directions.  Rather than over promising and under delivering we need to demonstrate that both that real change is possible, and that we are serious – that takes bravery but also a willingness to work together.

I believe a radical environmental policy has to be Labour and it has to be Cooperative, and the real difference it can make is actually both exciting and essential.

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