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The LCR’s Green Summit - Report #3: Voice of the Public

This is our 3rd report from the Green Summit.

Having previously heard about the LCR’s targets and the academic research being done to define and support this, next up was a section devoted to feedback to our Metro Mayor arising from the public ‘listening events’ held in the build up to the summit itself.

We had a couple of issues with these events; the main one being: we didn’t know about them until the 11th hour and had to scramble around to make it to the one held at Crosby Lakeside on the importance of our green spaces.

If we didn’t know about them in advance, how could we pass this information on to people who support our campaign? How were members of the public made aware of these events? From the outside, it appeared as if you needed to be connected to one of the various environmental groups in order to have known these were happening.

The other issue was that, of all of the items on the day’s agenda, this had the potential to be the most watered-down, sanitised and “greenwashed”. After all, who would include negative, critical comments as part of the LCR’s flagship green summit? We feared the worst.

And yet…

What followed was an open, honest and frank appraisal of how the Metro Mayor, the LCR and all of our politicians, at every level, are perceived by the public in relation to their views and actions on green issues.

Carl Beer, Merseyside Recycling & Waste Authority. Image: Wirral Globe

The section was opened by Carl Beer, Chief Executive of Merseyside Recycling and Waste Authority, who set the tone and introduced speakers who summarised the feedback of listening sessions held on Climate Change, Green Spaces & Biodiversity and a session held with local schools.

The schools’ feedback was exactly as you’d expect: switched on kids, talking about air quality, the environment and green spaces with passion and intelligence. Heart-warming stuff. The trouble is, we remember being taught about all of these things in the 80’s… why is it only now that the world is waking up to what needs to be done? And are we really doing enough?

Even so, it was the other presenters who stood up and told it like it was.

Annie Merry, CEO of Faiths4Change, spoke passionately about the listening event held on Climate Change & Resilience.

Annie Merry, Faiths4Change

As we have learned, you cannot talk about the proposed road through Rimrose Valley and the shipping industry it is being delivered to support, without now being aware of the huge impact that both of these activities have on the climate emergency.

So, whilst many of the points raised may not appear to be directly related to our situation, the key questions which arose in that session apply to all of us and warrant being shared in full. We’ve bolded some that are most applicable to our campaign:

  • Are our politicians really listening?

  • Do they grasp the full implications of the climate emergency?

  • Do they have the knowledge, skills, abilities and passion to deliver the radical changes that are needed to address the climate emergency and extinctions we face?

  • Is the City Region’s response to climate emergency properly resourced?

  • There is already a carbon neutrality goal, but does the response so far stack up?

  • Has the Merseyside Pension Fund fully divested from fossil fuel exposure?

  • Who are the vested interests lobbying to keep the status quo, or favouring one technical solution over another?

  • The Combined Authority is leading on air quality: what will the Metro Mayor prioritise?

  • We want our Metro Mayor to be bold – to call for VAT on aviation fuel, departure tax for the airport and on shipping, to commit to no new runways for John Lennon airport and to challenge HE to find a sustainable alternative to building a road through Rimrose Valley. Will he do this?

As you can see – powerful and challenging feedback and it was great to see further reference being made to our campaign.

Annie Merry continued by summarising what the group wished to see, as follows:

  • There is a need for a much wider truthful conversation, shared understanding and commitment to take bold actions on climate change at strategic level

  • Training and learning opportunities need to be created: we all need to become carbon literate

  • Climate change is a social justice issue: we know the impacts already disproportionately affect those who can least afford to pay – we have high levels of fuel poverty, this is in part due to poorly insulated homes

  • Existing housing needs to be retro fitted with the best quality insulation & energy efficient heating / lighting this must be included in the Spatial Development Strategy

  • All new buildings must be required to be zero carbon

  • Public transport and active transport need to be safe, affordable and integrated across the city region with reduced rate travel for people on lower incomes

  • Introduce congestion charges & restrictions on vehicular movement for the city and principal town centres

  • Can school league tables include a green bottom line by including air quality & school transport options – are there creative ways to reduce the gridlock of the school run?

  • We need a region wide kerbside food waste recycling service with education to reduce food waste & additional solutions such as composting

  • Across every authority in LCR sales of local green spaces, green belt and agricultural land are leading to destruction of our local environments often in the face of really strong resident opposition

  • Save Oglet Shore, the Flat Iron, the Ralla, Save Rimrose Valley to name but a few campaigns… some such as Bixteth Gardens are already lost to more concrete

She concluded as follows:

  • Sometimes there is a dis-connect between the stated goals to be carbon neutral and the local reality.  The fossil fuel industry shouldn’t be invited to invest in the city region or play a part in local events.  We should be facilitating things that make things better

  • A citizen’s climate assembly or jury with sufficient resources and power is a potential part of the approach

  • LCR needs to adopt a carbon budget, such as the one created by the Tyndall Centre which indicates that a fair budget for the city region is to stay within maximum cumulative carbon dioxide emissions of 46.1 million tonnes for the period 2020 to 2100: at 2017 emission levels the LCR would use this entire budget within 7 years

  • An LCR wide greening programme doubling tree cover and protecting existing woodland and green spaces needs to be created as part of the climate emergency planning – we must aim to increase tree cover to 20%

  • We need to think about whole system change, not just low carbon technologies.  Part of the awareness of the climate emergency we face is being driven by ‘people on the streets’ demanding change and taking action

The overall conclusion: Be bold and innovate – business as usual is not an option.

The theme continued as Nick Thompson of CPRE Lancashire and another supporter of our campaign talked about the findings of the listening session held on “Connecting and engaging communities and green spaces, habitats and biodiversity”.

Nick Thompson, CPRE Lancashire

He did this by sharing the questions that were covered in the session.

The key messages are as follows and we suggest that every, single one of these points is applicable to Rimrose Valley and its status as a country park:

  • We have some magnificent habitats and green open spaces that need more protection throughout LCR

  • Explore having LCR designated as a Regional park

  • Green community groups need to be listened to

  • Regulation of buses is vital

What do we need to do as a Liverpool City Region to improve our environmental sustainability?

  • Have the LCR designated as a Regional Park

  • Take a longer-term view of protecting green space in LCR

  • Develop a robust green spatial strategy

  • Press the government to implement the stalled Environment Bill

  • The management of visitors is essential to protect but also to celebrate green spaces

  • Plant more trees in appropriate locations

  • Look to other good national and international examples of sustainable regional communities

  • Show a greater balance between economic growth, environmental protection and social needs

  • Support local groups to protect their open green spaces see them as friends not enemies

What do you think are the barriers we will need to overcome to achieve this?

  • More powers to the Metro Mayor and Combined Authority

  • Combined Authority persuading the six local authorities to agree to radical green space protection

What can you do as an individual to improve your environmental sustainability?

  • Become more involved in open space community groups

  • Use the iNaturalist app and get involved with the Merseyside BioBank project. (On this last point, we have followed up with Ben Deed, who coordinates this project and will soon be meeting with him to explore how we can work together – more information soon)

The feedback delivered by both Annie and Nick was incredibly well received and greeted with a huge round of applause.

The Metro Mayor was in and out of the summit during the day as he had to fulfil his other duties, but we hope he was present to hear this in person.

This is because they were voicing the concerns that so many of us share.

The overriding message was that campaigns such as our own feel marginalised, viewed as problematic, ignored and not part of the process.

There was a demand for this to change. Urgently.

That channels of communication between community groups, campaigns and we – the people – need to be built and for people in power to start listening. A commitment was made to do just that.

To that end, the following Monday, we contacted the Metro Mayor requesting a meeting on what we believe is the single biggest environmental and public health issue facing south Sefton today: The A5036 Port of Liverpool Access Scheme.

We are currently awaiting a response and will update you if/when we receive one.

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