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Lib Dems: Tackling the climate crisis is at the heart of coronavirus recovery

May 22, 2020 7:59 AM
By Rugby Lib Dems

Rugby Town HallThe Liberal Democrats have secured cross-party support for their calls for local authorities to be empowered to enact measures that would help tackle the climate emergency as well as recover from the coronavirus crisis.

Rugby Liberal Democrats Councillors are calling for the Climate Change group on Rugby Borough Council to start working now and not in a few weeks time.

The cross-party letter sent to Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick states "we cannot simply return 'back to normal'" and that "tackling the climate emergency is at the heart of our recovery".

Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for the Climate Emergency, Energy and the Environment Wera Hobhouse initiated the letter, putting forward measures that include incentivising councils to support sustainable travel, revitalising high streets and allowing local authorities to close streets to traffic at allocated times.

Following the letter, Wera Hobhouse said:

"We cannot return to 'normal' following the Covid-19 crisis. The measures introduced by the Transport Secretary to promote the use of sustainable transport are welcome, but without cross departmental buy-in they will fail to have a lasting impact on how we travel.

"We cannot forget that we are facing a Climate Emergency - this pandemic has highlighted the link between congestion and pollution, public health and the quality of our towns and cities. It is time to take action and reinvest in our community spaces for the next generation.

"The Liberal Democrats are clear that the Government need take steps to empower local authorities if we are to implement changes which will make our communities more modern, more environmentally-friendly, and more enjoyable places for everyone to spend their time."

The text of the letter is as follows:

Dear Robert,

We hope that you are keeping well.

The Covid-19 pandemic has created unprecedented challenges. At the same time, lockdown measures have led to an improvement in air quality, increased safety for cyclists and pedestrians, and opportunity for outdoor play and leisure.

We have begun to understand much more about what may be possible in terms of climate action, and it is vital that tackling the climate emergency is at the heart of our recovery.

We cannot simply return 'back to normal'.

There is an opportunity to transform the way that we look at our urban spaces and our high streets, and to reclaim them as safe and healthy places. We welcome the measures that the Secretary of State for Transport has already announced to encourage active travel and keep air pollution levels down.

However, local authorities will also need support from your Department to truly secure the benefits from these measures, not just in the recovery phase, but in the longer term. Providing them with the necessary powers and funding will help them to bring about the changes that matter in their local area.

For instance, the Government could provide new planning guidance and support for local authorities to revitalise their high streets. A move towards a leisure and culture focus for the high street must be accelerated if towns are to remain vibrant post-2020. Increased pavement space, cleaner air, and quieter surroundings will make our town and city centres nicer places to spend time. This would help communities to rebuild their high street economies, and could give local authorities the opportunity to promote local and sustainable businesses.

There has also been an increased opportunity for outdoor play and leisure, as people have taken advantage of quieter roads. The Government should provide new planning guidance and support for local authorities and communities to identify and segregate safe places for children to play. For example, local authorities could be given the authority to designate times where certain streets can close to vehicular traffic. This would allow them to take measures which will not only improve air quality and safety for children, but will work best for their local communities.

As we slowly begin to emerge from lockdown, there is an opportunity for Government to help drive behaviour changes in urban travel. Clear incentives must be offered to local authorities to provide bicycle storage and electric vehicle charging points, helping to make sustainable travel more accessible to everyone.

The climate emergency has not disappeared; this pandemic has highlighted the link between congestion and pollution, and public health and the quality of our towns and cities. We urge the Government to support a green recovery, that prioritises public health and the

health of our planet, and we would be happy to discuss these ideas with you in greater detail.

Yours sincerely,

Wera Hobhouse

Alistair Carmichael

Wendy Chamberlain

Daisy Cooper

Jon Cruddas

Ed Davey

Geraint Davies

Tim Farron

Andrew Gwynne

Christine Jardine

Diana Johnson

Clive Lewis

Layla Moran

Sarah Olney

Virendra Sharma

Jamie Stone

Claudia Webbe

Munira Wilson

Mohammad Yasin