A vision for a greener future: Council bosses outline plans to tackle climate crisis

Drastic changes to transport, housing and business are being planned by council leaders across the West Midlands, as they join forces to help tackle the climate crisis.

The West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) has set out a grand total of 74 potential actions which bosses believe will help the region achieve its aim of becoming carbon neutral by 2041 at the latest.

Cllr Ian Courts, the authority’s environment chief and leader of Solihull Council, said the action plan attempted to lead a “green revolution”, while also boosting the economy.

The West Midlands once led the world in the industrial revolution, bringing wealth, innovation and opportunities to the people of the region. It is only right that the West Midlands should now be leading a new, green revolution which will protect and enhance both our environment and our economy.

Cllr Ian Courts, WMCA

The WMCA also has a youth branch, which has welcomed the plan.

Member Lily Eaves said: “Climate change is a huge issue affecting all of us… I hope we can use [these plans] to work together to make a big difference both now and in the future.”

It comes after a wave of climate protests in recent months, as activists warn of limited time to tackle the problem.

Where the West Midlands' carbon emissions come from. Credit: WMCA
  • Why has this plan been drawn up?

The WMCA voted to declare a climate emergency in July last year. The #WM2041 report, set to be approved at a meeting this morning, is the authority’s plan to take action.

They want to become carbon neutral by 2041, with interim targets of a 36% reduction by 2022, and a 69% reduction by 2027.

The authority also has to make certain reductions in emissions to comply by the Paris Agreement.

The report states that the West Midlands’ ‘carbon budget’ - ie the amount of carbon the region should emit between 2020 and 2041, if it is to meet that target - is 126 megatons (MtCO2).

However, at the current rate of emissions, that budget will be completely used up within six years.

13%

annual reduction in carbon emissions needed, starting immediately

3.8%

is the current rate of reduction in carbon emissions

This means urgent, and major, changes are needed.

The region needs to reduce its annual emissions by a whopping 13%, starting immediately.

To put that in context, currently the annual reduction rate across the whole region is just 3.8% - with individual council areas varying from 1% to 8%.

These are the non-binding 'carbon budgets' for each local authority in the region. Credit: WMCA
  • Yikes - so how do they expect us to do that?

Well, the report includes 74 changes that businesses, councils, residents and the WMCA itself can make to help meet this target.

They include:

  • Planting a tree for every resident

  • Installing more electric vehicle charging points

  • Cutting single-use plastic

  • Introducing LED street lighting

  • Building new homes on brownfield sites (ie former industrial sites) instead of the greenbelt

  • Improving public transport

  • Safer cycling and walking routes

  • Banning the sale of petrol and diesel vehicles by 2040

  • Help re-train people in ‘at-risk’ industries

Solar and wind power could be vital in future. Credit: PA
  • What will it cost?

The report estimates that investment substantial enough to make the 2041 target happen will have to be around £40bn over the next 21 years.

But in reality, they can't be sure.

The report states: “The longer term financial implications of adaption to climate change are still not yet fully understood – though we do know they will be substantial.”

However, it also acknowledges that investment is vital because “some changes to the climate are inevitable” - and the region needs to make sure it can withstand the extreme weather associated with this, including heavy rainfall, more snowstorms, and heatwaves.

  • What do environmental campaigners have to say about all this?

Members of the West Midlands Friends of the Earth branch has praised the WMCA for the action plan, which they say is “very welcome.”

Spokesman Chris Crean told ITV Central: “The WMCA is showing leadership which we hope other public institutions and the private sector will follow. We need to see declarations of a climate emergency translated into actions and we all need to be embracing the changes that are required.”

He went on to urge those in charge to scrap or “radically rethink” HS2 - though that isn’t included in the WMCA’s plans.

He added: “If it is not, we will still be paying for the carbon from just the construction of that project for years to come let alone the destruction of precious ecosystems taking place right now. The high speeds have huge energy demands which should also be considered.

“The role of international aviation and shipping must be radically reshaped as those sectors start to take full accountability of their carbon emissions and our exportation of our responsibilities on to other parts of the world.”

There have been numerous climate protests in recent months. Credit: PA
  • What happens now?

If the WMCA approves the plan, which means it will now be subject to a six-week public consultation.

You can read it in full here.

  • Oh yeah, and remind me - what is the WMCA again?

The WMCA is made up of 18 local authorities and three Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs).

These include the West Midlands Metropolitan Borough authorities (Birmingham, Wolverhampton, Dudley, Sandwell, Walsall, Coventry, and Solihull) as well as surrounding authorities (Cannock, Tamworth, Warwickshire, Rugby, North Warwickshire, Nuneaton and Bedworth, Stratford, Redditch, Telford and Wrekin, Shropshire).

It’s headed up by West Midlands Mayor Andy Street.