Friday, 12 April 2019

Working together to tackle climate change

Last Friday we held our Annual County Council meeting at County Hall. This particular Council confirms the appointment of the Chairman and Vice Chairman of the Council and this year there was a change to the team, with Janet Duncton becoming Chairman and Ashvin Patel her Vice Chairman – I know they will make a great team and I wish them the very best in their new roles.
As well as the formalities we had a few very interesting debates.
The first was on Climate Change and it was really heartening to see so many people in the public gallery listening and responding to the many considered contributions from members.
Whatever the root cause we all know that the climate is changing and this is having a major impact, with some countries seeing more of their land turning to deserts and some losing land altogether to the ever-increasing rise in sea levels.

We are seeing more droughts and water shortages. Scarily 60 million people were affected by extreme weather in 2018 (according to a UN source). Most of the warming has taken place over the last 35 years with five of the warmest years on record occurring since 2010.  

The last two facts may just link into our current way of life.
At the current rate we need three planets, but we have just one on which we do not tread lightly.

So we all need to change and adapt, and quickly.
West Sussex County Council has been busy reducing its carbon emissions and taking action to reduce what it uses, to minimise our impact. We have undertaken water audits to reduce consumption and have implemented a fully-comprehensive water management plan; through site audits of all the council’s buildings, installation of state-of-the-art water saving technologies and on-going monitoring.

As a nation one of our biggest challenges is to reduce our reliance on the fossil fuels which heat our homes as they are a major contributor to harmful gas emissions, so we need a real push on alternative energy. This is happening bit by bit and is one reason why I am so proud that WSCC is playing its part with our two solar farms and two more coming down the line, along with the growing number of solar installations we have on our buildings.

At last week’s Full Council we encouraged all members to sign-up to five pledges: save energy and water; make low carbon journeys; shop local; fight against food waste and pass on plastic. As a county we continue to do whatever we can, but we need everyone’s help which is why we will be launching a campaign that promotes these pledges to all residents and businesses in June. If we all cutback, used less, walked and cycled more we could make a difference and leave the planet in a better state for future generations.
And on the subject of future generations, another significant debate last Friday was on the age of voting changing from 18 to 16. Last year we had a debate with our Youth Cabinet on voting at 16.  It was excellent with some thoughtful contributions from the young people who attended. I, like many others, was struck by the maturity and thoughtfulness of the speakers and at the end of the session the motion was passed.

As a follow up to this motion, the debate came to Council on Friday. Once again there were many great contributions and I’m pleased to say that the majority in the Council Chamber supported the motion for 16-year-olds having the vote. Of course for this to happen there has to be a change in legislation, so it may not happen for some time, but we very much enjoyed the debate.