Newcastle’s commitment to tackling climate change
Posted: Wednesday November 10, 2021
The indisputable truth is that humans are warming the planet and that billions of people are increasingly under threat from the impacts of climate change.
And it is inescapable that those effects are building exponentially, meaning that every tonne of carbon dioxide emitted, and every fraction of a degree increase in temperature that causes, will be more severe and costly to our planet and its people.
Newcastle was at the forefront of the industrial revolution – we led the way in carbonising the globe– and as a result we’ve already seen a 1.1oC increase in temperature from pre-industrial times.
Over the course of COP26 in Glasgow we are hearing the impassioned pleas of those who are at the front line of what that is doing to the world – pleas that are louder and more urgent than ever before.
But what does that have to do with Newcastle? It’s true we’re not a low-lying island at risk of rising sea levels or part of an equatorial nation facing extreme heat, drought, or failed harvests.
But we are responsible for emitting about 1.5 million tonnes of CO2 a year; we are seeing the impacts of climate change here; and we are able to do something about our contribution to this problem.
While hotter and drier summers, and warmer winters might appeal to some, more rain and more frequent and intense extreme weather events like Thunder Thursday – which had an estimated clean-up bill of more than £70m – live long in the memory, and will become more common, affecting everyone in our city.
And while of course the colossal effort to tackle this challenge will be led by national governments, it is only through concerted local action that we have any chance of success. And that should not scare us, but instead excite us.
The shift towards a low carbon future has many co-benefits, from improved air quality, to more green public spaces, reduced fuel poverty to safer streets, healthier and more active lifestyles, the development of a “smarter” city, and improved fuel and resource security.
We just need to ensure our residents can see the bigger picture – it is not going green for green’s sake!
Ensuring we do that requires a collaborative approach and I’m proud that in 2019 Newcastle was the first city in the UK where a city council, university and NHS trust all declared a climate emergency.
Since then we have both individually and collectively set ambitious targets, with strategies and action plans in place to be net zero by 2030 – Commitments that have made us an international climate leader.
And in now coming together under the Collaborative Newcastle banner, we can demonstrate the value of cooperative action to enact positive change.
Whether Newcastle City Council’s £30m decarbonisation of major buildings like the Theatre Royal and the Discovery Museum; the implementation by private sector partners of low carbon transport like electric buses and e-scooters; Newcastle Hospitals being the first in the UK to use climate friendly gas and air during labour; Northumbria University’s large utilisation of Solar PV; or Newcastle University’s divestment of their endowments from fossil fuel, it all helps us towards our unified goal.
And together we are identifying, on a local level, what we can do to achieve the fastest reductions in carbon, over the shortest period, for the resources available.
All of that has fed into our ambitious Net Zero Newcastle – 2030 Action Plan, which sets out over 100 steps that our city can take to be carbon neutral in just nine years’ time.
However, while we might have that plan, it is important that we continue to bring people together, discover new ideas, and develop our roadmap for change.
The partners in Collaborative Newcastle have an ongoing programme of events, both in person and online, covering a wide range of issues around climate change, to further your understanding of what the climate crisis is, its impacts, and how we can address this challenge.
And by taking part you can help us keep our city at the forefront of the green debate, ensuring we create a better, greener, fairer, and healthier Newcastle for everyone.
For more information about net zero events in Newcastle visit www.newcastle.gov.uk/netzeroevents