While there is scant recognition of the need for environmental justice at the national government level, communities have proved more adept at linking global environmental concerns with local social inequalities. There has been tension between largely white, middle class environmental activists who say the climate should come before all else, and black and working class communities who are more focused on day-to-day economic inequality. But the mayor, Marvin Rees, says the ultimate goals are aligned. Bristol has promised to go carbon neutral by 2030, which is the most ambitious target of any city in the country and 20 years ahead of the national government, but even before the pandemic it was off-track, and the lockdown has punched an £80m hole in the city’s revenues from council tax and business rates. Rees said he would be looking for savings from climate interventions and flood defences rather than frontline services, such as care homes and refuse collection. This triage of today’s crisis over tomorrow’s was reluctant. Rees wants the central government to intervene by front-loading planned investments in retrofitting homes, public transport and decarbonising the energy system. The focus, he said, should be on creating jobs in the transition to clean energy. “There is no doubt the next shock will be the climate shock. We can’t get away from that,” he said. “But we need to remember the green economy is also about housing quality, not just wind farms.” Nobody needs to tell that to the working class community of Lawrence Weston. This post-war housing estate in north-west Bristol is one of the lowest income neighbourhoods in the UK, but it has also gone further than most in marrying local social concerns with climate strategy. This is thanks to a strong community spirit, a supportive council and a nimbleness in adapting to crises. residents realise they can make money and save the planet at the same time. Helped by donors, including a lottery-funded Big Local budget and a 50% share in the profits of a solar power plant, they have hired specialist consultants to help them draw up an ambitious community action plan to build affordable, environmentally friendly housing, install new charging points for electric cars and improve cycle access. Residents – 70% of whom say they struggle to pay heating and electricity bills – can use a mobile phone app that employs thermal imaging to spot weaknesses in the energy efficiency of their homes. Local traders then fix the draughty windows and insulate the lofts, but only charge a fee to those who can afford it.
Guardian 3rd July 2020 read more »