Patrick Devine Wright: Community ownership of green issues is key

Professor Patrick Devine-Wright, Chair of the Net Zero Task Force

Professor Patrick Devine-Wright, Chair of the Net Zero Task Force - Credit: Devon County Council

Patrick Devine-Wright, chairman of the county council's net zero task force, writes for this title

Earlier this month Devon Climate Emergency (DCE) launched the Interim Devon Carbon Plan consultation.

The carbon plan will lay out what every person, every business and every organisation in Devon must do to lower carbon emissions and to achieve net-zero. It also highlights the wider opportunities doing so presents.

The plan is evidence-led and considers the suggestions made by the public earlier this year.

Given what we all have had to endure in terms of lives and livelihoods lost this year, it’s understandable that the Climate Emergency has not been in the forefront of all our thoughts.

But, as the UK’s Climate Change Committee recently reminded us, it has not gone away, and while in the short-term Brexit and COVID may well have more immediate impact on our lives, the Climate Emergency - and what we do now to arrest it - will determine our futures.

And while the challenges are different, some of the solutions may well be the same - COVID has presented us with an unexpected opportunity to create a fairer, healthier, more resilient and more prosperous society.

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Nation states, including the UK, are spending billions on creating jobs, and giving the world economy a much needed shot in the arm – and the choice is whether these vast sums go towards patching up what was there before, or to build societies that are greener, sustainable and more resilient.

It’s an opportunity to introduce transformative change and not just tinker around the edges – ideas that, pre-COVID, were perhaps considered too controversial or too expensive are now, for a limited window at least, entering the minds of national leaders.

The door is ajar, and now is the right time to push.

For instance, a ‘green recovery’ should lead to a transition to clean technologies which will create new jobs, improve energy security and increase prosperity for all.

I believe we should be greatly expanding community ownership of renewable energy, installing electric car charging stations, reforesting, retrofitting all homes to be more energy efficient, and embracing more sustainable diets.

Equally, enhancing the natural environment offers tremendous opportunities to reduce flood risk, improve water and air quality, increase the availability of nutritious food and create more accessible greenspace.

While these transformations will create enormous opportunities for many, there will also be difficult changes ahead as we phase out use of gas and oil and reduce methane emissions. Our commitment to a ‘just transition’ will ensure that no individual, business or organisation across Devon is ‘left behind’.

I do appreciate that many are sceptical of consultations, but I am here to ask you to consider taking part in this one.

The Carbon Plan we are creating is at a crucial stage, and for it to work it needs to be truly representative of everyone in Devon.

What you say and think matters and I believe that this is the right time and the best chance for Devon to present a unified strategy.

The more of you who take part in the consultation, the better informed our argument becomes; the more justified we are in proclaiming this as Devon’s response to the Climate Crises; the more momentum we create, and the more likely we are to realise our goals.

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