Apparently, Mayor Anderson is to declare a “Climate Emergency” on the 17th of July. Now, let me state at the outset, I am supportive of all positive initiatives to address the very real dangers posed by global warming and the general neglect of our environment. I really cannot comprehend the mentality of those who are in stubborn denial when it comes to the degradation of the planet, and its effects on climate. However, what I do deplore are public relations exercises, unsupported by wide consent and a plan of action.
It will be of more than passing interest to see what is being proposed, and how the general public will be involved in the city’s attempts to do its bit at this critical time. I do recall a visit to the United States ten years ago when I was admittedly surprised at how proactive many individual states and cities were in their attempts to counter federal government inertia on the most pressing problem of our age. Therefore, recognising that this is an issue that knows no boundaries, my first question is whether Liverpool is acting in concert with sister cities throughout the country. My second question? Is there an international dimension to this initiative?
These are fundamental questions which get to the heart of things – is it a serious proposal, or perhaps well-meaning political spin ? As I say, this is an emergency which crosses all boundaries and borders. We (for there is ample evidence of radical climate change which has already occurred), our children and our grandchildren, need to be signed up to a global crusade to halt so many harmful practices which are damaging our everyday lives. Whether it is the explosion of carbon into the air or plastic into our seas, we all have a part to play.
Yet it is also about an appreciation of the natural world in and around our communities. It is part of the reason why increasing numbers of people are passionate about short-sighted attempts to monetise all of our green spaces. There is an old Arab saying which, roughly translated, says “Give me a penny, and I will spend half on bread and half on the narcissus; because bread is the food of the body and the narcissus is the food of the soul”. Perhaps that is a somewhat poetic way of expressing the need to strike a balance in all things in life.
Thus, it concerned me to discover that Liverpool’s World Heritage Status is imperilled once more. Social media is replete once again with the usual philistine comments about this. We have a city with some very special features of which we ought to be proud. It is also the case that the city – like all of its contemporary rivals – is keen to attract investment. Yet investment and maintenance of that which makes us special are not mutually exclusive. They do, however, require intelligent consideration in both the planning and the execution of development projects. That has not been the case in recent years.
For example, I have been a regular Cassandra about Peel and its grandiose claims. I make no apologies for that. Their sole objective is to make money, not to think of the wider welfare of Liverpool or the planet. Their principal business is the buying and selling of land. It does not seem to be successful at other ventures designed to increase its income. That is why they have sold off Teeside Airport as they also try to flog off Liverpool Airport. Even their stake in the Port of Liverpool is up for sale – that is, the working docks. Where dockland real estate can turn a profit, they will still jump into any old deal.
Ironically, Peel has withdrawn its proposal for a solar energy farm behind Liverpool Airport. I am confident that Halton Council would have rejected it anyway (the bulk of the proposed site was in Halton). However, this change of tack by Peel is simply about its own liquidity problems, not about the greater issues to do with climate change.
We need to take a far more comprehensive view across the whole city-region – and far beyond – if we are to have any impact on the climate change challenge. Climate issues are far, far bigger than any single company, city, or country. I look forward to a debate, therefore, open to full public participation, on July 17th.