environmental actionthrough the local perspective
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acknowledgementsSome Liberal Democrat councillors and councils have led the way on theenvironment - when it wasnt just fashion or a government target. Id like tothank the London Boroughs of Sutton and Kingston-upon-Thames, EastleighDistrict Council and Kirklees Borough Council - their political leadership hasbeen a model for many. This book hopefully provides more.
Cllr Richard Kemp (Church Ward, Liverpool)Leader of the Liberal Democrat GroupLocal Government Association
Simon Hughes MP
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Amey is one of todays leading public services providers, managing the vitalinfrastructure and business services that practically everyone, everywhererelies on.
About AmeyIf youve driven on a motorway, travelled on the Tube, been into a localschool or used council services, there is a good chance youve benefitedfrom the work that Amey does. As one of the leading integrated publicservice providers in the country, the extensive scope of our work means thatday in, day out, we touch the lives of millions.
Our purpose is to support organisations, both public and private, that servethe public and meet the needs of the 21st Century citizen. Our approach isbased on true partnership, supporting the delivery of the highest publicpolicy objectives, in education and transport, social cohesion and communitydevelopment.
11,000 people work for Amey, who are at the heart of everything we do. Wealso bring the strength and additional capabilities of Ferrovial, one ofEuropes most successful infrastructure and services companies.
Amey.A passion for the very best service, delivered by the very best people.
The Liberal Democrats have long recognised the importance of acting onclimate change. We see that although going green can seem hard, it issomething that must be done in order to preserve the planet for futuregenerations.
This Labour government has never matched its record to its rhetoric when itcomes to tackling climate change; it is up to Liberal Democrats to show thatwhen we achieve power we dont do the same. As the party that pioneeredgreen initiatives well before their time we have a duty to implement greenchange when we have the chance.
This is why Green Actually is so important: it is account of the work doneand being done by Liberal Democrat councils to tackle environmental issues,and a blueprint for further improvement. Having popularised andcampaigned on environmental issues it is now vital to see what localcouncillors can do to meet the challenges of climate change. I feel that this isall the more important with a general election in the near future. It is vital thatthe electorate sees that green campaigning on the part of the LiberalDemocrats will be matched by decisive action. It is up to us to provideleadership in tackling climate change in the hope that action at a local levelcan also encourage a truly national environmental effort.
I welcome the publication of this report and congratulate theLocal Government Association team on their work.
With best wishes,
Simon HughesLiberal Democrat Shadow Secretary of Statefor Energy and Climate Change
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No great improvements in the lot of mankind are possible untila great change takes place in the fundamental constitution oftheir modes of thought.John Stuart Mill,Autobiography, 1873
We are capable of shutting off the sun and stars because theypay no dividend.John Maynard Keynes,National Self-sufficiency, 1933
the front line of the planet
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They tend to have ill-fitting jeans, and they have shoes which look likeCornish pasties, wrote Simon Hoggart about the Liberal Party in 1981 in theGuardian. They have briefcases stuffed with documents, chiefly aboutcommunity politics, nuclear power and ecology. They drink real ale.
This caricature was, of course, true. Now that ecology and real ale areseriously big business, it goes to show just how prescient Liberals andLiberal Democrats have been over the years, pioneering causes and ideaslong before they became mainstream indeed, assisting them along in thatprocess.
There is no doubt that Liberal Democrats have played an important role inpopularising green ideas, and developing them in practice in the UK. Theyhave done so not just in their lonely critique of nuclear reprocessing in 1978,when the Liberal parliamentary party went into the lobby alone against thecombined weight of all their opponents. Nor just in their pioneering critiqueof economic growth the following year, but in painstakingly making thingshappen at local level.
Nor was this something which just emerged in the alternative hothouse ofthe 1970s. My great-grandmother a lifelong Liberal held me at mychristening with a copy of Liberal News in her handbag, along with her usualtracts about the dangers of radiation emissions to the food chain. For manyyears, she hosted one of the pioneering names of the green movement, whocamped under her dining room table in Chelsea in the 1930s.
Stretching even further back, the great Liberal philosopher John Stuart Millimagined a stationary state economy which could provide for human needswithout going beyond environmental limits. For Mill and those that followedhim, green issues though he never used the phrase himself were issuesof liberty. Clean air, unpolluted water, were part of the basic pre-requisitesof life. Those who suffer from asthma, because of the traffic outside theirdoor, are suffering under a yoke of tyranny as potent as any prison with realbars.
The big problem is what you can do about it, given that Liberal Democratsdo not yet control the nation, still less the world, and this is the question thatlies behind this short book. There is a global crisis, and those who run theworld are reacting slowly and lazily, and we have to use what tools arebefore us. In short, local government finds itself on the front line.
Under Liberal Democrat influence, very tentatively and carefully borrowinga little from the rhetoric of Local Agenda 21 in the 1990s UK localauthorities have begun to tiptoe lightly in a greener direction. Never quitecreating a revolution. Always wondering exactly how it all connects together,or how it connects with the mainstream or to the raft of largely irrelevant
targets which Whitehall uses to judge success. But even so, progress isbeing made.
Among the real pioneers were Lib Dem Sutton, where Liberals brought amotion to council back in 1985, setting out how to make the council greener.It was voted down by the ruling Conservatives, but they were thrown out bythe voters the following year, and Graham Tope and his Liberal team wereset the task of putting it in practice. They were eventually awardedcertificate number 0001 in the European Unions eco-management auditingsystem. The next seven certificates went to Lib Dem local authorities too.
Another pioneer was Woking, then a joint administration between LiberalDemocrats and Conservatives, which also began with a Lib Dem motion tosubject the council to an environmental audit. It led to the council becominga world leader in generating off-grid renewable energy.
Lib Dem councils like Eastleigh, Devon and Chesterfield have all, in theirown way, pushed forward the boundaries of what is possible for a UK localauthorities. The difficulty is that our own councils still have a very long wayto go to catch up with some of their Scandinavian or German counterparts even American ones, when Portland, Oregon is famously wrestling with itsown Peak Oil plan.
Like Reykjavik in Iceland, which has takes all its heat and electricity fromhydro and geothermal power sources.
Or Curitiba in Brazil, with its innovative currency paid out for collecting litterwhich can be used on the buses (it also has a flock of municipal sheep forkeeping the grass mown).
Or Freiburg in Germany with its car-free neighbourhoods.
Or Bogata in Columbia, which has cut rush hour traffic by 40 per cent.
Or Malmo in Sweden, where all the new municipal housing is self-sufficientin energy and where the bus fleet runs entirely on biogas generated from thecitys sewage. Even Istanbul manages to have public litter bins across thecity that are divided into paper, metal and glass and the rest.
I want Liberal Democrats to aspire to that kind of structural re-thinking,says Richard Kemp, Liverpool councillor and Lib Dem leader in the LocalGovernment Association. That should be our role and that is ourchallenge.
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What makes Lib Dem local government different, asks Richard Kemp. Hisanswer is:
i) Devolution, involvement and participation. ii) Tackling long term environmental issues.
That puts the green agenda absolutely at the heart of the purpose of gettingelected as a Liberal Democrat, and it is the reason for this book.
Traditionally, we have always been good at the immediate things, likegetting elected, making our areas clean and well-managed, he says. Butwe still need to up our game for the long-term.
Nor is this just something that can only be pursued by Lib Dem councillors inpower and in cabinet. There are examples on the pages that follow a