We knew this was going to be an unusual Neighbourhoods and Environment Scrutiny Committee. The agenda had caused a double take; the review of the Zero Carbon Framework 2020-2038 suddenly replaced by discussion of a draft five year plan.
But five more surprises lay in store on the day itself.
- The public gallery was packed – the highest turnout that I have seen for this committee. Extra chairs arrived. Executive members were obliged to mingle with the public, back in rows 2 and 3. To all those who gave up their time to attend: thank you. The tense atmosphere must be in part due to your presence. It may not have felt like you contributed (and our advice remains ‘bring a book’) but such visible pressure and citizen scrutiny is essential if we are to stand any chance of real action.
- An exceptional meeting declared: next a seventh scrutiny committee? NESC members were not happy with the documents presented, nor the process – and certainly not with the answers of the Executive Member. After an hour of circular arguments about which reports would be going to the Executive, Cllr John Flanagan called for an emergency meeting with the Executive Member. This, he hoped, would force clarity on the process and enable the committee to review the recommendations. An exceptional measure like this is fine as a one off; but the longer-term need is for a seventh scrutiny committee, dedicated to climate and the environment. Only then will climate plans get the attention they deserve. Month in, month out. If you agree, sign here (from 10th Feb)
- Talking in tonnes recommended – The committee’s other two recommendations chimed with those set out in the CEM briefing paper produced ahead of the meeting. First, to use tonnes (rather than percentages) of CO2 consistently, and in all documents.
- Quarterly reporting recommended – The final recommendation called for quarterly reports on the City Council’s own emissions, with KPIs.
- Discussions of climate action plan barely touched on action – OK, maybe not so great a surprise. But the agenda implied that the action plan – what is to be done – might be front and centre. Instead, as Cllrs Kilpatrick and Wright pointed out, an hour was frittered on confusion about sequencing and whether or not targets had been agreed. The discussion circled many times, but rarely ended up on what to do in an emergency.
If this whets your appetite, you can watch a webcast of the full meeting here (popcorn optional).
And if any of the many citizens present would like to supplement these headlines with points that struck them as important, please leave a comment below.