Winter Draws On

08:10 Tuesday 9th October 2012
Bigger Breakfast Show
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

PAUL STAINTON: Both city councils in the county need to up their game when it comes to green issues. That’s what we’ve been hearing this morning on the show. The comments come ahead of a meeting tonight, where a new five year green strategy for Cambridge will be approved. The main target is to cut carbon emissions, something the city council’s failed to do in the past, much to the annoyance of local environmental campaigner Tony Juniper. (TAPE)
TONY JUNIPER: I think they’re on the back foot actually, because what they did in terms of this plan a few years ago was to calculate the numbers wrongly, and to find that they hadn’t made the kind of reductions they claimed. I wonder what would have been the reaction had that been a mistake with the finances, had they made a mistake with the numbers linked to the Council’s budget? I think there would have been an absolute furore. But I guess they feel as though they can get away with it. (LIVE)
PAUL STAINTON: Meanwhile in Peterborough of course the City Council has declared itself as the Environment Capital of the UK, but LibDem councillor Darren Fower says the title is meaningless and completely fictional. (TAPE)
DARREN FOWER: There’s a good reason why it’s self-proclaimed, because the City Council with all their “aspirations”, quite simply, it’s a bit of a joke. We’ve got some really serious issues that need to be addressed, and a lot of people out there trying to do their best, but the City Council really do need to lead by example. And in my opinion they’re not doing that. (LIVE)
PAUL STAINTON: So, who’s greener? Is it Cambridge, or Peterborough? In the green corner, we have Rachel Huxley, from Peterborough Environment City Trust. And in the possibly even greener corner, MP for Cambridge, Julian Huppert. First of all Julian, what do you make of Tony’s comments about Cambridge? Are they justified?
JULIAN HUPPERT: Tony is right. There was an error made in calculating exactly how much change had happened in CO2 emissions. But I think the key thing is how much is actually being done to reduce that, whether it’s making much more waste being recycled rather than just put into landfill, and that’s now up to 44%, whereas about ten years ago when we took control of the City Council it was less than 10%, whether it’s about looking at air quality, which maters a huge amount to people. whether it’s about carbon emissions, encouraging people to walk and cycle. Or whether it’s huge visionary projects like the Cambridge retrofit scheme, trying to fit every single building, residential or commercial, in Cambridge, by 2040, so it’s much more energy efficient. There is a huge amount happening in Cambridge. We’ve done a lot and there’s a lot more still to go.
PAUL STAINTON: We were supposed to be doing that in Peterborough, weren’t we Rachel? Putting on top of all the Council buildings, solar panels and everything like that?
RACHEL HUXLEY: Supposed to be? I think they have. There’s 300kW of solar panels gone on the Town Hall, Regional Pool and the Freeman’s building. And they’re continuing with a PD(?) programme, putting them on all the schools as well, which is of huge benefit to the schools as well as the city.
PAUL STAINTON: Was Peterborough a bit quick out of the blocks to proclaim itself as the Home of Environment Capital?
RACHEL HUXLEY: I think Peterborough was very quick out of the blocks to get on the green agenda. It was 1991 that the city first signed up to an environmental charter. And that’s before the first Earth Summit in Rio. So that’s a really impressive commitment and track record to the environment. So in terms of quick off the blocks, yes. But I see that as a positive thing. And in terms of proclaiming ourselves Environment Capital, I suppose it depends how you interpret it. I see it very much as a challenge that the city has set itself, to do better in terms of the environment.
PAUL STAINTON: It’s not just a strap-line then? The councils, they like their strap-lines, don’t they?
RACHEL HUXLEY: Yes well, everyone needs .. you need to make it engaging for people, don’t you? So I think that’s fair enough. But yes, it’s about really looking at what we need to do to create the sustainable cities of the future, and that’s a huge challenge for everyone. And it’s fantastic that they’re looking at it in Cambridge. It’s great that we’re looking at it here, and we have been for over 20 years. So I think yes, we were quick off the blocks, and I think, yes, it’s a good thing that we have such ambition about the environment.
PAUL STAINTON: Which is the greener city?
RACHEL HUXLEY: (LAUGHS) I think it depends ..
PAUL STAINTON: Go around Cambridge, people on their bikes, green spaces in the middle of the city. You go around Peterborough, everybody’s in their car.
RACHEL HUXLEY: Well, Peterborough is designed unfortunately with the parkways, with the car. But we do have 45, over 45 miles of Green Wheel cycleway, which is in the Times Top 50 cycleways in the UK.
RACHEL HUXLEY: Thank you very much. And we were one of three travel demonstration towns (?) in the UK, and achieved a 16% shift towards sustainable travel. So I think, given the challenges that we have in Peterborough, we’ve done an awful lot to get people travelling more sustainably. In Cambridge they have a different make-up, infrastructure of the city, and their park and ride schemes, their cycle schemes, just naturally lend themselves, because of the way that the city’s formed. It’s great cycling round in Cambridge, but it’s brilliant cycling round in Peterborough as well. I’ve done both.
PAUL STAINTON: In your opinion Julian, could Peterborough learn from Cambridge at all?
JULIAN HUPPERT: I think nobody’s actually got the perfect answer. Cambridge has a lot of stories to tell that I didn’t get a chance to talk about earlier. We can all learn and we can all do better. None of us yet are at the stage of the cities that we will need to be in order to reduce the impact of climate change over the next twenty years. And actually of course one of the things about a lot of these changes is it’s not just about climate change and these big international issues. It’s also about saving on your energy bills, That’s one of the great things about having your house properly insulated. It’s being able to travel more safely and in a way which makes you fitter and healthier, by cycling or walking. There’s a huge amount we can all do. I’m very proud of what Cambridge has done already, and we still have a lot to go. Peterborough clearly is doing some good things as well, though it has a long way to go. And I hop more cities will start to take this seriously, because it’s in the interests of the planet, but also in the interests of all the people who live and work in our cities, or indeed in the countryside.
PAUL STAINTON: I think most of us realise that in the next thirty forty fifty years when our children’s children are growing up, energy is going to be becoming in short supply, and we’ve got to look at alternatives. There’s been a huge furore in Peterborough about Marco Cereste’s plan to paper over fields full of solar panels and wind farms. We’re going to have to look at that Julian, aren’t we?
JULIAN HUPPERT: We’re going to have to look at getting energy from somewhere, so energy-efficiency is the first thing. So insulating houses, whether it’s the easy things like filling up cavity walls with insulation, or many of the harder things. We have to use less energy. But the energy we have has to come from somewhere. It either comes from burning coal, which is going to get increasingly expensive and dirty, or gas, which is getting more and more pricey, or nuclear, or renewables. And renewables have the huge advantages. I think we should be looking more at those. But the first thing is efficiency. Let’s not use the energy before we work out exactly where to get it from.
PAUL STAINTON: In ten seconds, what could we all do, today, Rachel, to help out?
RACHEL HUXLEY: I think not turn the heating on too soon. Put a jumper on. Absolutely, as Julian says, be more energy efficient. And look at where you’re sourcing your energy from. So what kind of energy supplier have you got? There are lots of good renewable energy suppliers out there. And that’s one switch, and for ever more you’re supporting renewables, and supporting more sustainable energy.
PAUL STAINTON: Julian, before you go, I’ve got to ask you, are you looking forward to the Conservative’s £10 billion cut in the welfare budget? Are you looking forward to that?
JULIAN HUPPERT: Not in the slightest. But that’s why they’re talking about doing it after the next Parliament, because they know that some of what they’re talking about simply doesn’t make sense. When they talk about taking housing benefit away from under-25 year olds, I think that’s wonderful in a world where everybody has a loving safe family to live with. But that’s simply not the case for hundreds and thousands of people. So I think they just don’t understand reality, and we’ll have to make sure that they don’t get away with that while we have any influence.