Is a Green Revolution still possible?
It seems an eternity ago when I sat in the Guildhall for a Northampton Borough Council (NBC) full council meeting on a hot Monday evening in June 2019, and the motion was passed to declare a Climate Emergency in Northampton. What would this mean locally? How soon could we make a difference? What would be needed to get things going? So many questions and so little time.
We fast forward to the present; we’re now in July 2023, we’ve had hot temperatures with the heat making us feel slightly uncomfortable again, are we expecting 40 degree heat again this year? A few days last year was unbearable but what if it's 3 or 4 weeks of 40 degree heat this year or next? How would we cope in Northamptonshire, our parents would tell us it still wasn’t as hot as 1976!
Are we ready locally to deal with the impact of Climate Change, is our infrastructure able to cope with the extreme heat and flash flooding with a month’s worth of rain pouring down in one day? I think we know that answer already - ‘probably not’ - but I still have hope that we can put things into place to turn the situation around.
As a local councillor it became very clear to me back in 2019 that we needed to raise awareness very quickly, a Climate Change Forum was set up by NBC with councillors from all parties coming together after the emergency was declared in Northampton. Local students Mia Joyce, Ava Joyce and Lorna Lewis, inspired by Greta Thunberg, organised two Eco Marches in April and September 2019. Both were attended by huge numbers of school children, families and local activists, marching through the streets of Northampton to the All Saints Church plaza to protest and raise local awareness about the Climate Emergency. I then decided as a local councillor to walk out of a local planning meeting in protest and later resigned because the committee was not eco friendly enough and needed to act faster on the impacts of Climate Change.
The pandemic hit us in 2020, the world paused, and the planet was briefly able to recover.
After local elections in May 2021 West Northants Council (WNC) and the Northampton Town Council (NTC) were formed and a climate emergency was declared by both new councils. On the Northampton Town Council a new climate change forum was set up, made up of a few local councillors and local environmental campaigners.
So far through its hard work the CCF has raised Climate awareness through:
· Holding 'climate cafés’ in the Grosvenor Centre and Weston Favell Centre
· Installing environmentally friendly planters in Northampton Town Centre with sustainable perennial plants to green the town
· Increased awareness of air quality by publicising the Airly map of the sensors that WNC have installed in Northampton
· Developing an Every Journey Matters campaign to encourage more people to cycle or walk
· Setting up a ‘Make Change Happen’ installation in the Grosvenor Centre
· Setting up a Green Climate Change Grant scheme encouraging local residents and organisations to apply
In May the leader of WNC, Jonathan Nunn, attended the NTC climate change forum to share the WNC Net Zero 2030 vision and we explored potential future collaborative working across our local parish councils to hopefully have an input to any future WNC Net Zero policy.
The Northampton Town Council Climate Change Forum was recently nominated for an award by the Northamptonshire Heritage Forum for its attempt to raise Climate Change awareness.
The future still needs to be green, but I have faith locally that by us working together and setting up different environmental initiatives change is possible at all levels.
Councillor Paul Joyce, NTC Councillor for Eastfield Ward and WNC Councillor for Headlands