Example of completed survey
kindly provided by Cllr Theresa Norton (Scarborough Borough Council, not standing for election in May)
1. As an elected member of NYC you would be responsible for overseeing the county’s decarbonisation strategy. To do this, you will need a clear understanding of climate science and climate change risks. Can you confirm that you already have a good level of carbon literacy or will complete carbon literacy training as a priority if elected?
I firmly believe that ALL members and officers of the council should have COMPULSORY climate science training. We are not playing on an even field when many members, still, do not acknowledge the climate crisis for the imminent disaster that it is.
2. The NY Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) has drafted an ambitious regional Decarbonisation Plan (“Routemap to Carbon Negative”) that sets out the main sources of GHG emissions by sector in North Yorkshire and proposes various measures to rapidly cut them. The plan is currently out for consultation. Can you confirm that you have studied the draft plan (at least the executive summary and ideally the full report) and would support the proposals if elected? Are there any proposals you do not support? If so, why not? How do you feel they could be improved?
LEP: I have read this report and there is a lot of work being done. I would say that it seems to depend heavily on technology that doesn’t yet exist and may not be workable on a large scale (carbon capture and hydrogen) It also consistently refers to economic growth, the very thing that has landed us in the mess we are in today. I am dubious about burning ‘biomass’ at Drax, this is simply buying and burning trees from another country and should not be promoted as green energy. A lot of the work depends on government policy, so councils need to lobby their MPs and the government to stop procrastinating if we are to meet targets locally.
3. The main source of emissions in North Yorkshire is transport (2.9 MtCO2 e/yr). In your view, how should the new NYC Council tackle this most effectively?
Transport: Car Free Sundays: a/ free park and ride and public transport on a Sunday, pedestrianise Marine Drive and Whitby town centre etc. Have eye catching signage on roads into Scarborough highlighting we declared CEE and how we need peoples help to reduce our emissions. Town centre residents only parking. No new multi storey car parks. Lots of local electric buses, as cheap as possible or free. Work with schools to reduce high volume of cars.
4. The next biggest source of emissions in our region is agriculture and land-use change (2.1 MtCO2/yr). What do you see as the best way(s) to reduce emissions in this sector?
Restore peatland and end grouse shooting. This sport is now one we can no longer afford: it is damaging to the environment and cruel for the grouse. The group Wild Moors is very good on this topic.
5. The NY LEP Decarbonisation Plan suggests retrofitting 250,000 homes (insulation, heat pumps) to reach EPC C or better In order to reduce energy demand in buildings and therefore emissions. Is this feasible? Do you think a massive region-wide retrofit programme of this kind should be a council priority? What are your views on hydrogen as a solution?
Retrofit: Costly? Maybe, but it MUST be done, it is not a choice. It should be not for profit but the investment will create thousands of proper jobs, reduce fuel poverty and energy consumption, and it will pay for itself in the long term. Find out how much it will cost for the social housing and low income households to insulate and force governments hand to invest. Use the skills village to train. Is it a priority? YES we should have been thinking long term decades ago so now we have hit the last chance saloon, don’t waste any more time. Hydrogen: we can’t rely on this, it’s costly and energy intensive to make, I think, especially in large enough amounts. We need to work with what we have, reduce consumption by changing the way we live, in general.
6. Some well-known politicians at national level have expressed the view that “green” measures to protect the environment are too expensive and will cost jobs and investment. Where do you stand on this?
To politicians, saying going ‘green’ is expensive, when what they mean is there will be massive investment but nobody will make money out of it. And nor should they, energy will be at a premium, the industry needs to be nationalised and energy should be carefully allotted under a fair scheme. Much of the problem is to do with our failing economic system and the bizarre way in which traditional economists factor in the heating planet to GDP. It is utter nonsense and extremely dangerous. Listening to economist Steve Keen is a huge wake up call. Kate Raworth's donut economics theory is a hopeful vision of a sustainable economy.
7. Where do you stand on fracking?
Fracking: there should be absolutely no more licensing for any fossil fuel, be it oil, gas or coal. This is an absolute bottom line demand from this government by the young generation whose future is being pulled away from under them and everyone who fears for their loved ones and those already suffering from climate breakdown, especially people in the global south who have contributed the least to the problem.
8. To the extent permitted under national law, do you think NYC should adopt a policy of screening out any development proposals that cannot demonstrate a net zero carbon impact? How else could the future NYC use its powers under the planning system to protect the climate and the environment from unsuitable development?
Until government policy is seriously brought up to scratch local councils will struggle to able to meet energy saving demands with new-build housing estates. It’s criminal that these are not already in place. But if and where possible yes, NYC should absolutely screen all new developments to meet low-carbon standards.
9. Large areas of North Yorkshire are peatland. According to the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust, “For thousands of years, peatlands have stretched across Yorkshire. Our most ancient and iconic landscapes should be a mosaic of vibrant greens, reds and purples. Instead, they are a brown and broken wasteland. We are at risk of losing them forever.” What action should the new NYC take to protect this vital habitat?
LEP plan states that 100% of peatland will be restored. But does that include moorland and if not we need to stop grouse shooting and rewild those areas to their natural state.
10. Waste, plastic and the circular economy. What steps should the new council take to minimise waste, reduce plastic pollution and build a circular economy?
The production of plastic packaging is set to quadruple by 2050! We will never get a handle or control over the problem until we stop it at source, regardless of ‘recycling’ (only 10% of plastic is recycled and it is not a sustainable practice, but actually encourages complacency) In Scarborough borough we are yet to introduce food waste management. We have organisations around the circular economy but it still feels niche, more public awareness is required regarding all climate issues.
11. Tree cover. The NY LEP Decarbonisation Plan proposes doubling the current area of woodland in the region. Do you agree? If elected, would you work to meet this target?
Tree cover: always to be acknowledged as important and welcomed but trees are slow growing so we can’t rely on that to fix immediate problems.
12. Where do you stand on Carbon Capture and Storage (CCAS), for example at Drax? How much do you think can we rely on this technology to help cut our emissions?
To my mind too much emphasis has been placed on yet to be proven technologies like carbon capture. The amount of energy they take to build and power has to be factored in, as do the time scales. So, I think we need to focus on lowering consumption rather than expensive solutions to draw out CO2.
13. Will you sign the UK Divest Pledge: “If elected, I pledge to support the council divesting its pension fund out of fossil fuels and redirecting those amounts into sustainable investments and the local economy over an appropriate time-scale. I promise to do everything in my power to make sure this happens within the first year of my term in office."
I will not be standing but believe my Labour colleagues who are would support this.
14. Nature and biodiversity. The LEP Decarbonisation Plan proposes a Local Nature Recovery Strategy. Do you support this? What would you like to see in a nature recovery strategy?
Yes I would love to see a local nature recovery strategy. At SBC we recently voted in favour of a motion to declare an ecological emergency so a wider strategy would be very welcome.
15. Finance. The proposals set out in the NY LEP plan are designed to help NY achieve net zero by 2034 and be carbon-negative by 2040. The new unitary authority will have a substantial budget, but this will require a lot of investment. Without committing to a blank cheque, would you broadly support the proposals as an investment priority for the new council?
We must invest whatever it takes to reach net zero just as if we were on a war footing.
16. By the time you read this, the government may have published its new energy security strategy. What’s your view of the strategy? Does it go far or fast enough? Should we focus more on reducing demand for energy?
The energy strategy has still not been released, due apparently to ministers' concerns over funding.
17. Anything else you’d like to add on your environmental or climate views? On your previous record or future priorities?
My personal thoughts: there was not much mention of the issues around farming, especially factory farming, and the huge part reducing animal agriculture plays in global solutions to the crisis. Not much either on rewilding. I do not like the’biofuels’ from Drax which takes subsidies for ‘renewable energy’ when it is simply trees bought from another country and sold as ‘green’. And the owner of the company makes huge profits from his plastic production empire. We simply should not be in bed with these businesses who value only profit and care nothing for the environment. There was also little talk of degrowth, instead continually referring to economic growth even though our present economic system is a factor in climate breakdown. I believe the energy industry should be nationalised and energy be rationed like on a war time footing. I totally agree that hemp manufacture should be increased and relied upon more and certainly take the place of plastic wherever possible.