Geoff Raw: Why I’m optimistic about climate change


Scientific expertise and rigor are required to act locally, writes the CEO of Brighton & Hove City Council.

There is a palpable feeling that after years of procrastination, denial and tinkering, something fundamental is changing in the way climate change goals might be achieved over the next decade. The wind for mother nature may be turning. For local authorities and our partners in our regions, the scale and accelerated pace of this rising tide of change may even surprise us if we do not act quickly.

Geoff Raw, Managing Director of Brighton & Hove City Council

For too many years in local government, high ideals and aspirations have not been matched with scientific and technical expertise, policy prioritization and investment commitment. I don’t blame our industry – we’ve been working with too much money for far too long.

As a young and enthusiastic coordinator of Local Agenda 21, I remember trying to offer my local council a meaningful translation of the sustainable development commitments of the world leader of the Rio Earth Summit in 1992. Most of the people have graciously noted that the weather events the generations of the next century.

As I know now, the impact turned out to be faster and more devastating than I thought. But in hindsight, my efforts barely scratched the surface of my local authority area. Older and I like to think a little wiser, it seems to me that it is not enough to just want something. Systemic change invariably requires a confluence of factors to transform our world and, in this case, the way we manage our impact on the ecosystem.

Twenty years later, I am optimistic. I spent this morning listening intently at a climate summit in Greater Brighton, where I had the honor to speak, about how my region is moving to net zero carbon.

If we have learned one thing from the Covid pandemic, it is the importance of relying on scientific and technical expertise as a guide for action.

The discussion was scientifically informed, convincingly argued and presented in collaboration with the key players in the room. The economist, Professor Sir Dieter Helm, explained how to correct our approach to solve this most difficult problem. We heard from the Local Government Association talk about their proposals to government to ensure that the comprehensive spending review reflects commitments on climate change and decarbonization. Later, we discussed a new emerging relationship between local authorities and government departments.

A new approach by the national government to work with the regions on decarbonisation policy and investments cannot come soon enough. Asher Minns, of the Tyndall Center for Climate Change Research, recalled at the summit the upcoming temperature changes in south-eastern England ranging from 2 degrees at best to 8 degrees at worst. This will be accompanied by a rise of half a meter in mean sea level and a greater likelihood of summer drought and winter flooding.

The event also highlighted investable and scalable projects already underway. This included a Sussex Bay kelp restoration project supported by Sir David Attenborough with the potential to alleviate some of the impact of sea level rise as well as restore a 90% loss in biodiversity. . Sussex Hydrogen’s business and technology partnership showcased the advancements they foresee in the production, distribution and use of local green hydrogen commercial buses.

While we think our challenges in the UK are significant, it was humbling for me to listen to some international perspectives. This included my counterparts in the American city of Portland, Oregon, a socially and culturally innovative tech city often compared to Brighton and Hove. They’ve battled years of drought, intense wildfires and, most recently, a heat dome that has killed 60 of their poorest residents and largely Bame. It was also fascinating to listen to the plans of a small town, Lahti in Finland, which is the green capital of Europe in 2021 and ambitiously seeks to become net zero carbon by 2025.

If we have learned one thing from the Covid pandemic, it is the importance of relying on scientific and technical expertise as a guide for action.

In my opinion, this is also necessary to help us prioritize decarbonisation measures in our communities – which has an impact, is deliverable and is investable. Scientific expertise and rigor are also necessary to help us benchmark our local carbon consumption and its global impact as well as the capacity of the natural capital of our regions to absorb and store carbon and restore biodiversity.

In Greater Brighton we are fortunate to have two wonderful universities, Brighton and Sussex, and a knowledge-rich business sector. We have announced our intention to harness this intellectual capital in a regional “scientific and technical advisory group”. This will advise our leaders at the Greater Brighton Economic Board to make the best decisions for our region.

I see the tide is turning. The existential threat to our species and the loss of so many others in the UK is at large. It stings the conscience and provokes the thinking of many more people, while also stimulating those who have been passionate about this issue for decades.

I hope that the national government will develop a new and indispensable regional approach to the national decarbonization policy, regulation and public funding and that this will help to involve local communities and business sectors in channeling our energies and investment resources.

In my area of ​​Greater Brighton, “something’s going on here” and it gets a little more specific and clear (apologies to Buffalo Springfield aficionados).

Geoff Raw, Managing Director, Brighton & Hove City Council

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