Conservatives claim they have a climate plan: until the goings gets tough

February 28, 2021 12:36 PM
By Jan Harwood

Jan HarwoodEnough with the sarcasm and jokes. People like to ask me "So what would you do differently?", so here is my answer. Firstly, I'm no big wig, fancy pants Westminster MP. I am however a Surrey County Council (SCC) candidate, so I will pitch my answer at a level I can potentially play at. If you want to fire the starting pistol for climate change action at County Council level, the initial changes are simple to identify: transport, energy and leadership.

TRANSPORT

The burden of change cannot be placed solely on the residents! SCC has the tools to unlock better transport options. It is a classic case of "build it and they will come". Build out electric vehicle charging points to allow people to switch, but we must provide the quality and ease of life to make those decisions easy. Neighbourhood zones to reduce traffic and rat-running in purely residential areas, diverting pollutant traffic away from our homes where possible.

And our Schools! Please! PLEASE! As a lead member for air quality at Guildford Borough Council, improving air quality around our schools and children is an absolute priority. At Guildford Borough Council both myself, and Councillor Caroline Reeves, have been working with the University of Surrey to achieve precisely this. There are solutions, it just requires investment, prioritisation & focus. Conservative Surrey County Council are paralysed by any problem which cannot be solved in an afternoon. To me the solutions are perfectly clear: push traffic out of the town; prioritise air quality and increase public transport provisions...basic stuff really.

ENERGY

There needs to be massive restructuring of our energy infrastructure. Massive capital investment in renewable energy options like solar, wind and hydroelectric are not only climate friendly, but actually make economic sense in terms of capital returns. Why is Surrey County Council not screaming at the top of their lungs about this?

I'll tell you why, the stagnant politics at SCC means any change, even for the better, is resisted. As the lead member for Climate Change at Guildford Borough Council, I have on average two or three renewable energy companies contacting me, asking if there is any interest. Conservatives say they're the home of business and allowing the free market to make progress? Yet their actions, as usual, are the total opposite. There's a huge opportunity for us to be a world leader here: Greenify the electric grid; create jobs; protect our environment; build our expertise and export our know how abroad as a world leader. This is not exactly rocket science.

LEADERSHIP

We desperately need leadership in the face of the Climate Change Crisis. Climate Change initiatives in one county or local borough are just as valid elsewhere. The Conservative run Surrey County Council has failed to take a leadership role in bringing together all the institutions and organisations. Climate change denial or scepticism can no longer be allowed to influence decisions making at the top level. By increasing cooperation across the region we can pool together resources to tackle the bigger elements of the overall crisis.

This leadership is severely lacking from SCC. Conservative failure is one of either two reasons:

  1. Conservatives simply don't understand the urgency of climate change and are deliberately taking no action. This is unforgivable in the face of the evidence produced by mainstream science. It's the equivalent of putting flat Earthers in charge of navigation.
  2. Or Conservatives are simply under-prioritising which must not be allowed to continue.

If elected I will push the agenda of collaboration and cooperation, increase joint resourcing, diversify the expertise base for tackling unprecedented problems. I will prioritise a green economic recovery. I will fix clean air quality around our schools and homes. It is our responsibility to the future.