Sian Reid on climate change and local government

climate_change17:24 Tuesday 8th December 2015
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

CHRIS MANN: Let’s talk about another big issue that’s happened this week, that’s the Climate Change talks in Paris. And Cambridgeshire had a representative there, because councillor Sian Reid who is a former Leader of Cambridge City Council until 2012, she was there as part of a big group of European local government officials. Sian, welcome., and welcome back from Paris.
SIAN REID: Thank you.
CHRIS MANN: Obviously a particularly poignant time to be there, not just about those talks, but about the whole situation in the city. How was it?
SIAN REID: Well the event I went to was one where cities from all around the world sent mayors to have a climate change event, to talk about their actions and ambitions for tackling climate change. But of course they all spoke about the poignancy of being in Paris at that time. They all, from all around the world, expressed enormous solidarity with Paris, expressed this as an international thing. And I think what was interesting is the Deputy Mayor of Paris spoke very well. He said security, we have to up our security. That’s a given. But what we in cities as local government want to do is focus on improving the way we work together in our communities, harmonious communities. That we provide health, education and good public spaces, good neighbourhoods, so that we work on social cohesion.
CHRIS MANN: Over the last couple of days the National Front of course have made huge gains in France, and I think they’re going to run about a third of the country at the end of this, including Calais interestingly enough, and that may lead to other results. Did you get a sense that the country was swinging to the right?
SIAN REID: I didn’t get that sense in Paris itself. I think those results, I haven’t analysed them closely, but from even a …
CHRIS MANN: Well even the Dordogne, they’re second I understand behind the Socialists.
SIAN REID: Yes. Yes. I think Paris is in a state of .. France is obviously in a state of high shock. People were very pleased in Paris, shopkeepers and people pleased to see business coming back, and I think it will take time for countries to come to terms with this.
CHRIS MANN: I know that you saw another .. well he’s been mentioned as a Presidential hopeful, Bloomberg, Mayor Bloomberg was there. And also you saw President Hollande. And the international flavour was certainly there. But what difference could you make, being a local government representative from Britain?
SIAN REID: Well we had Robert Redford there too ..
CHRIS MANN: Robert Redford!
SIAN REID: Yes. We had Leo de Caprio and Robert Redford. You know we don’t often have star studded events in local government. But Robert Redford was very good, because he said he’s been concerned about this issue of climate change for decades, and the only people he’s really seen pushing away at it with sincerity and ambition are cities in America. So all of them were over. LA was speaking, Vancouver in Canada. So what we’re talking about here is what can you do to make a difference in local government. And these days of conferences were full of actual things that local government is doing. So real stories.
CHRIS MANN: So does what we do here in Cambridgeshire, whether it’s in the city of Peterborough or Cambridge, does it influence and can it make a difference? We often feel that one person’s actions don’t matter.
SIAN REID: Well there’s no doubt that the carbon footprint of Cambridge has reduced. The carbon footprint of Cambridgeshire has reduced. We are making a difference by insulating our houses, using a bit less energy, using LED lighting, bicycling, using lower emission cars. All these things will make a difference. And it’s the sum of all these actions which make a difference. And you saw in things like in LA, they decided they were going to get their water usage down by 20% in two years. And everybody really pitched in and had a go, they got it down by 17% in one year, which is fantastic.
CHRIS MANN: And are there ways that we’re ahead of the game if you like in what we’re doing in this part of the world, and also behind. What must we change?
SIAN REID: Well I think in Cambridge we launched our first climate change strategy in 2008, we’re quite ahead of the game. But there’s a huge amount more to go. The City Council has a new climate change strategy out for consultation right now, so if those of you listening are eager to get involved, you go on the City Council website and give your views on what we should do. There is an awful lot more to do before we really tackle this problem.
CHRIS MANN: And from your few days in Paris, the most striking thing for you, being there in a city which is still traumatised, but of course at the centre of a huge worldwide political movement over climate change?
SIAN REID: Well I suppose yes, the tremendous sense of solidarity across local government and cities across the world was very striking on all the different levels. And the linking of issues, like the linking of the threat of climate change and migration, the expressions of solidarity, the sense that we in local government really want to get something done, and we all want to see a solid outcome from the COP21 talks.
CHRIS MANN: Sian Reid, thank you so much for joining us. Councillor Sian Reid, former Leader of Cambridge City Council, back from Paris and those climate change talks.