Climate crisis: As Glasgow hosts COP26 we look at Sheffield’s environmental priorities
As world leaders gather at COP26 in Glasgow to discuss climate change, tensions are hotting up in Sheffield as politicians disagree about which party has the greenest credentials.
The Liberal Democrats started the hoo-ha when they said the Labour and Green coalition needed to be doing more, and faster, if Sheffield wanted to properly play its part in stopping an “environmental disaster”.
They highlighted recycling, public transport, electric cars and renewable energy production as key issues which needed urgent attention.
Lib Dem environment spokesman, Coun Tim Huggan, said: “Sheffield Council declared a climate emergency two years ago like many other councils, but we have seen relatively little actual action on the ground to make concrete differences.
“We need to see much much more before we will believe that the council’s leaders are taking climate change as seriously as they should.”
Why are doorstep food waste collections at the centre of this?
Coun Huggan says doorstep food waste collections not being introduced until they are legally required in 2023.
“Food waste in Sheffield alone we estimate produces over 200,000 tonnes of CO2 a year, the equivalent of tens of thousands of cars.
“The Lib Dems have been calling for food waste to be collected for years. It’s disappointing that the council has delayed bringing this in until the last possible moment.”
And Lib Dem Leader Coun Shaffaq Mohammed took a political swipe and added: “Unfortunately, we have come to expect this sort of can’t do attitude from the Labour party leading Sheffield, however, we are very disappointed to see the Green Party now in coalition with them supporting them to do so.”
Sheffield Green Party says it has a climate action plan
Unsurprisingly, the Greens were unimpressed and quick to volly back that if the Lib Dems were serious about taking action, they would take up their places on the council Executive.
The Greens also accused the Lib Dems of delaying action on climate change by opposing pedestrianisation and cycling schemes in the city centre and voting against reducing the number of unnecessary journeys by private car.
Green Party Leader Coun Douglas Johnson said: “The council has just published its draft 10-point plan for climate action which will be discussed at a committee on November 10.
“The plan is by no means perfect, nor is it fully costed, but it shows a way forward of more action more quickly to do everything we can to become zero carbon by 2030.
“It addresses what is already being done by the council and aims to make the most of future government funding.
“It also considers the need to harness the contributions of business and the voluntary sector, which all have their part to play in reducing energy usage and consumption.”
And those doorstep food waste collections?
Coun Johnson said the Lib Dems signed a 25-year waste contract when in power which was further extended under Labour control.
“It means that Veolia, a private company, can name their price of any food waste or recycling collection. It has already cost the council millions of pounds to provide kerbside recycling.
Labour Council Leader Terry Fox agreed.
“If we were to introduce weekly food waste collections now it would cost millions for Sheffield taxpayers, when in a little over 12 months’ time additional funding will be made available by Government to deliver the requirement.
“If the council introduces a food waste collection ahead of the required change no additional money will be received from the Government.
“Our budget has been slashed by over 30 per cent in real terms since 2010, so clearly we can’t go spending millions of pounds we don’t have.
“The carbon benefits of treating food waste separately are usually quoted in comparison to landfill.
“The carbon benefit of separate food waste treatment in Sheffield is considerably less than these benchmarks as less than one per cent of our waste is disposed at landfill and food waste is processed at our Energy Recovery Facility.”
What does Sheffield Labour Party say about the climate emergency?
Coun Fox was interested to hear about the “can’t do” criticism.
“The Lib Dems had the chance of joining with Labour and the Greens but declined saying they’d rather be in opposition – you can’t get any more “can’t do” than that.
“The climate emergency is one of the biggest issues facing all of us and this is why Labour brought forward the council’s carbon neutral target forward 20 years to 2030.
“We know a lot needs to be done to get there but I’m proud of what we have achieved so far, and for the Lib Dems to say we’re not doing anything is disingenuous.”
He pointed to some “fantastic projects” led by Labour over the past 10 years include the Grey to Green scheme transforming the city centre with new cycling and walking routes, record investment into parks and green spaces and a housing strategy which prioritises brownfield land for developments and protects the green belt
“Less than one per cent of black bin waste is sent to landfill and even the city’s bin lorries are now powered by the very waste they have collected.
“Labour also made Sheffield the first local authority in England to ban fracking applications on council owned land, and the council’s well underway to achieving our target of planting a 100,000 extra trees.
“The approach of Labour councillors has always been to enact radical action to make the city more sustainable but doing so in a way that is fair and just.”