On Friday, 8th November, we attended the Liverpool City Region’s (LCR) first Green Summit at the John Lennon Art & Design Building of Liverpool John Moores University.
This was not a public event, but we had secured a place and were glad to be representing Rimrose Valley. Importantly, we were made to feel very welcome by the event organisers and enjoyed speaking with people about our work; many of whom were already aware of Highways England’s plans and our efforts to stop them.
The following is a summary of the event itself, as defined by the itinerary, the content of the presentations and some additional notes we made on the day.
Due to the amount of ground covered, we’ve broken this up into shorter reports, so it’s hopefully a bit easier to take in.
The summit was introduced by the Chair of Nature Connected, Gideon Ben-Tovim. Nature Connected acts as the advisory body to the Metro Mayor on environmental issues and, as we have learned, is part of an established network of Liverpool-wide environmental organisations.
Gideon set the scene and great emphasis was placed on just how far up the political (and media) agenda environmental issues have moved in 2019; the climate emergency in particular.
Net Zero Carbon 2040
Of the initial introductory presentations, the most relevant covered the work that has been, or is being done in order for the LCR to define and then achieve its stated goal of being carbon neutral by the year 2040.
This was delivered by Mark Knowles, Lead Officer for Low Carbon within the LCR Combined Authority, who talked about the areas in which the LCR needs to focus its efforts.
Although some of these aren’t specific to the plight of Rimrose Valley, transport and air quality, we wanted to summarise them here to give you a flavour of the efforts being made. We’ve bolded those which are most relevant:
Greater energy efficiency in homes and businesses
Generating clean electricity locally, including tidal, offshore wind and solar
Shifting to electricity and hydrogen to supply domestic heating
Using hydrogen as a replacement for methane
Creating largescale energy storage capacity
Using a combination of the above approached for energy-intensive industries
Electrifying transport (including hydrogen) and shifting from car to walking and cycling
Replacing diesel HGVs with highway electrification, hydrogen and during transition CNG (Compressed Natural Gas)
Introducing ship-to-shore power and emissions restrictions on marine and aviation turnarounds
Specific targets include:
To deliver Europe’s largest tidal power project by 2030
To triple the volume of energy generated by offshore wind in Liverpool Bay by 2032
To replace all methane with hydrogen in the LCR’s gas grid by 2035
To deliver a network of zero carbon refuelling stations (hydrogen and electricity) by 2025
To meet the city region’s hydrogen demand from transport, industry and heat from clean hydrogen produced within the LCR by 2023
To see municipal clean energy projects including solar, onshore wind and district hear projects across the LCR
To see all new developments in the LCR make clean energy contributions
As a set of goals and deadlines, these are ambitious.
As you can see, huge emphasis it being placed on hydrogen as almost a ‘fix all’ solution.
However, speakers were keen to point out that it is not a ‘silver bullet’ and that there are many forms of hydrogen production, some less ‘clean’ than others.
From the perspective of south Sefton, it was good to see that encouraging a shift from domestic vehicle use is ‘up there’, but this hasto be supported by better public transport, as well as facilitating safe routes for cyclists, runners and walkers. Thankfully, this was covered at a later point in the day (see below).
We would have like to have seen more specific reference being made to the movement of freight as well as people. However, there was recognition of the impact of HGVs, which is obviously linked to this. We need to find out more details behind the LCR’s plans for ‘highway electrification’, but it could be similar to this scheme seen in Sweden, or a more traditional approach like this one.
We are also keen to know more about the restrictions placed on emissions from ships, as this is hugely relevant to south Sefton and to Seaforth residents, in particular. This is because this community’s air is under attack both from the sea (ships’ engines idling in port) and the land (HGV traffic, queues in streets awaiting their slots, and stop-start movements on our roads).
We want to know more about these measures, when they will come into force and what penalties will be enforced for failure to comply.
The Metro Mayor
Later in the day, Steve Rotheram delivered his keynote speech to delegates, in which he expanded on many of the LCR’s goals on a zero-carbon city region, outlined above. In doing so, he referenced Labour’s Green New Deal and the visit of Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell to the city, the previous day.
We asked for a copy of his speech in order for us to be sure that we were accurately quoting the statements he made, but to date this has not yet been provided. Therefore the following is based on notes made on the day.
We were told that the first quarter of 2020 will see the delivery of an LCR-wide Housing Strategy; a Transport Plan; an Air Quality Planand a Local Industrial Strategy– all of which will have sustainability and carbon output at their core.
On transport, he said that significant efforts are being made to clean up our transport system. He cited Merseyrail as a clean form of public transport and said that the new rolling stock which will be delivered in 2020 runs more efficiently, is better designed and will make travelling by train more appealing. It will also be publicly owned.
We welcome the investment in rail in our city region and are excited by the possibilities this brings. However, we are keen to establish whether capacity has been built into the new rolling stock to cater for growth. This is because, if the LCR and its Councils are to champion rail as an alternative to car use, the network needs to be able to handle the subsequent increase in demand. Currently, trains are full at rush hours with seats for those who need them not always available. We need to ensure that everything possible is done to make the daily commute as comfortable and a truly viable option to jumping in the car.
On buses, he said that 70% of the busses operating in the LCR now generate lower emissions than traditional, diesel buses. He also offered the example that funding provided by the LCR has resulted in 25 new hydrogen buses.
Again, we welcome this progress, but we believe that much more work is required here. We need far more ‘clean’ buses (25 across an entire city region is a drop in the ocean), more routes, more often and above all a cheaper bus service if this is to make a serious dent in the number of people who use their cars for the daily commute. Private bus companies should be forced to invest in the cleanest buses available and to replace the existing fleet as soon as possible. Travelling by bus isn’t cheap. We need to ensure that a significant part of the profits these companies are making is reinvested and that they are properly playing their part in reducing our impact on the environment and cleaning the air we breathe.
On energy, he said there will be a £10m investment fund for renewable projects and there is an ambition for Liverpool to become “Britain’s renewable energy coastline”.
On green spaces, he said that there are plans to double tree cover within the city region as part of the Northern Forest.
Great! What better place to start than protecting all of the trees on Rimrose Valley by opposing Highways England’s road…and actually planting more?
Speaking of Rimrose Valley, on the movement of freight, he said that there needs to be proper investment in rail in our region, not damaging HGVs on our roads and gave the example of Rimrose Valley as a case where “better alternatives must be found”.
It was obviously great to hear specific reference being made to our campaign. However, we need to be sure that this is more than just a soundbite and that genuine work is being done to pursue better alternatives. What, specifically, is the Metro Mayor and the LCR doing to push back on the Government’s plans and to pursue more sustainable options? Immediately after the conference, we requested a meeting with Steve Rotheram to discuss this in more detail. We are awaiting a response.
As his speech drew to a close, he made what is potentially an exciting announcement; the launch of what he called a Climate Change Partnership made up of local authorities, businesses, trade unions, campaigns and community groups with the goal of working together with one goal of targeting 2040, or sooner. This group will have a £500,000 investment in order to pursue and deliver its aims.
This sounds commendable, but we need to know more about this so we can play our part. Again, this would form part of our discussions if we are able to meet the Metro Mayor.
He concluded by saying that none of this can be achieved the LCR working alone. It needs government support and money. He will be raising this “Day 1” of the next government in office. He claimed that the political will is there to work with the people of the LCR, to double our efforts and to deliver a cleaner, sustainable city region.
We are aware that there was a political (and a party-political) element to this speech, but the contents sounded encouraging – not only from the perspective of Rimrose Valley – but also what kind of future we want for the entire city region.
As ever, we need to see action on the back of these words, which is why we want to meet with the Metro Mayor and key members of his Transport Team as a priority.
We will let you know if this happens.
Our next report is a summary of the academic work which has been done, which has huge potential to help our campaign to protect Rimrose Valley. We will publish this here next week.