Big Ideas for a Carbon Neutral District

Panorama of members and guests at Stroud District Green Party AGM Meeting

On Tuesday, the Stroud District Green Party AGM, held at Stroud Brewery, opened with a public meeting inviting a panel of Councillors, party members and experts from the community to share their big ideas to help achieve Stroud District Council’s vision to be carbon neutral in just 11 years time.

Fred Barker, from Gloucestershire Community Energy and Transition Stroud, opened the discussion by describing the need to mobilise communities. Fred explained:

“Over the next 12 years, large-scale change is needed. The Council won’t be able to do it all by itself. It’ll need to mobilise and work in partnership with a wide range of stakeholders and communities.”

He outlined three big ideas:

  1. A stakeholder mobilisation workshop – to kick-start a wider engagement process;
  2. A formal partnership – drawing on examples of how other towns and cities are bringing together different stakeholders;
  3. Support for local ‘initiative-takers’ – learning from new action groups in Horsley and Randwick, and spreading the idea of local action to more areas across the District

Rachel Smith, Green County Councillor, spoke next about transport, and the need for County level action to support District carbon reduction. Whilst the current County Transport plan as a carbon neutral goal, it pushes the target to reach it out to a shocking 2099. Given transport accounts for well over 30% of emissions in county, Rachel called for a focus on short and medium term action on:

  1. Improving rail – increasing the number of stops, creating better connections, and pushing for electrification of all lines. This needs the County to switch efforts to lobbying for rail, instead of road expansion.
  2. Bus service innovation – some areas of the country trialing ‘virtual bus stops’, using mobile apps to create services that could work more effectively in rural areas. Making bus services easier, cheaper and more convenient is vital to reduce reliance on cars.
  3. Cycling infrastructure – including segregated cycle routes, and being ready for the continued growth of electric bikes.

Next up, Tim Martel, architectural techologist, spoke about housing and public buildings, describing the potential for carbon savings of up to 400%. His big ideas included:

  1. Make a clear plan for better buildings – based on the data covering both the cabon costs of building, and the carbon costs of running a building
  2. Improve new builds – including building them retro-fit ready, applying Pasivehause standards, and looking for win-win cases of lower carbon and lower running costs.
  3. Collect insulation materials that would otherwise go to waste, and make it available for households to insulate.

Liz Child, agriculture expert, spoke next on the vital contribution of food and farming to carbon reduction, calling for:

  1. Support for regenerative agriculture – looking not just at crop efficiency, but also carbon capture through agriculture, restorative soil and water management, and crop resilience.
  2. Land policy that supports smallholder farms – learning from the Welsh One Planet development policy
  3. An agricultural belt – creating short supply chains between food producers and consumers, and supporting local food businesses.

Lastly, Simon Pickering placed the focus on energy, suggesting ways to generate more of the renewable energy we need locally, including by:

  1. Making land available for energy generation – and working to overcome resistance to the changes this may bring to the local landscape.
  2. Investing in a mix of renewable power – including wind, solar and hydro-electric.
  3. Having courage, not hope – recognising the size of the challenge ahead, and maintaining political courage of meet the obstacles that will arise.

As these ideas show, there isn’t one single solution to respond to climate crisis. Alongside these ideas, there will be many others – as well as ideas on how we adapt to the climate change effects that cannot now be prevented. We’re writing up the other ideas shared by participants at the workshop, and will include those in a follow up article soon.

If you want to get involved in discussions on how Stroud Green Party can continue to drive and support efforts for a cabon neutral district, you can look out for details of our future meetings, including regular Coffee House Conversations, open to anyone, or you can join the party to get more involved.

Group Photo at the 2019 AGM