I have copied below the text of an email that I wrote to my local councillor, Clive Hooker (Conservative, Downlands), today. I had previously written to him to express my support for the motion that was being discussed on the 30th of May, that West Berkshire Council should declare a Climate Emergency.
I am a late convert to this sport. Until a few months ago I had never written to my Councillor, MP or any other elected official. I have always voted, though my favoured candidate never seems to win, and just left it at that. I have now realised that if we don’t tell our elected officials what we want them to do, we can’t expect them to know…
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Following my email to you at the end of last month, on the subject of the Council debate on the 30th of May to Declare a Climate Emergency in West Berkshire, I would like to take this opportunity to express my views on the statement published on the West Berkshire Conservative Councillors Facebook page on the 29th of May and also on a flyer that I received in the post offering “Oil Boiler Upgrade Grants for Home Owners in the West Berkshire Area”.
Statement published on the West Berkshire Conservative Councillors Facebook page on the 29th of May 2019 at 14:53 (link)
I am encouraged by the overall tone and content of the statement, however there are some specific parts which I feel reflect a poor understanding of the situation that we find ourselves in and suggests that you and your colleagues do not truly believe that we are in a Climate Emergency.
The statement calls out the costs of moving away from fossil fuels “Changing domestic heating away from oil or gas is not a feasible choice for many.” but says nothing about the benefits of these changes, specifically lower fuel bills, or the cost of not making these changes – catastrophic and irreversible changes to our climate and the associated economic costs of increased flooding, heat waves, food shortages and extreme weather. Furthermore, there is a big difference between replacing an existing heating system and mandating that all new build properties should use zero carbon alternatives – the Council must ban the installation of oil or gas boilers in new buildings, both residential and commercial.
The statement also presents the fight against Climate Change against the provision of services as an either/or choice “Though we are determined to make progress on climate change, we also need to ensure that all residents’ needs are met through the delivery of a wide range of services and we respect that Council Tax payers expect and need a range of Council activities outside those we might undertake to protect our environment.” This is where I see a fundamental misunderstanding; the Climate Emergency requires a change in mindset where every decision is underpinned by the impact that it will have on the Climate. This is not about taking money away from services, it is about commissioning the services in a way that will move us towards a better future. For example, freeze the cost of a Taxi Licence for Zero Emission Vehicles but increase the rates for all taxis with internal combustion engines. This will provide an incentive for operators to consider ZEV when replacing their vehicles and the additional revenue can be invested in vehicle chargers at taxi ranks.
Oil Boiler Upgrade Grants for Home Owners in the West Berkshire Area
This is the perfect example of short term thinking. We know from the report published by the Committee on Climate Change (Independent Government advisors www.theccc.org.uk) on 2nd May (Net Zero – The UK’s contribution to stopping global warming) that we need to de-carbonise heat. Why spend money now replacing boilers that will need to be replaced with heat pumps in less than 10 years? Focus the money on longer term initiatives such as improved home insulation that will deliver significant fuel, and hence cost, savings for home owners and which supports the later replacement of oil boilers with zero-carbon alternatives. I am aware that insulation upgrades are part of the grant scheme mentioned here, however it does not seem to be possible to take up this option independently of the boiler replacement. I also object to the fact that there is no option for the home owner to make a contribution towards a heat pump or similar zero-carbon heating system and still receive the grant.
I will be posting the text of this email as well as a link to the statement on the West Berkshire Conservative Councillors Facebook page and a scanned image of the flyer in the Eco News section of Penny Post (pennypost.org.uk). I will not publish your reply unless you expressly ask me to do so.