Essex Climate Action Commission: Interim Report – our reactions

In November the new Essex Climate Action Commission published its Interim Report (general inforeport itself). First impressions suggest that they are serious about making big changes, and are backed by the (Conservative) Council leadership: the Council Leader, David Finch, says in his Foreword, ‘Climate change is a … systemic risk that requires action at every level: internationally, nationally and locally’, and ‘Climate action simply cannot wait’ (p4). The Commission’s chair, John Randall, seems to know what he’s about, and seems happy to leverage the Climate Assembly to get stuff done: ‘The recent recommendations of the people’s UK Climate Assembly show widespread public support across the UK for action like this’ (p6). The Commission’s two Co-Chairs, Prajwal and Daniel, are both members of the Young Essex Assembly (p7), so they’re keen to involve the people who will have to cope with most of the problems. In addition, they do seem to be genuinely trying to get ahead of the curve, urging (p36) ‘all Essex anchor institutions, business leaders, communities and residents to come together and lobby government and government agencies for action, funding and/or policy change’, and calling for ‘All departments across Government to hold climate challenge as central to core ambitions and funding’. So we have a Conservative Council asking others to lobby a Conservative government for more action on the climate and the environment.
Overall the Commission are keen to publish (this Spring) recommendations to make ‘a step change and new approach’, with at least £5m of County Council money behind it (p12).
Transport features heavily in this interim report. Active travel is the first of their list of overall quick wins (p17: ‘Active travel prioritised: designing walkable and low traffic neighbourhoods, exploring built-in last mile delivery solutions (among other options), and delivering Walkable Neighbourhoods; workshops to commence from October 2020’). Another quick win (under ‘Existing Buildings and urban regeneration’ on p19) has: ‘Prioritise walking and cycling while disincentivising car use in town centres e.g. workplace parking levies’.
But Transport has its own section (pp25-27). I didn’t know that the UK is ‘in the top ten most congested countries in the world, the third most congested in Europe behind Russia and Turkey’. Pp26-27 has their full list of transport quick wins, quoted in full here:

  • Introduce dedicated, well-planned cycling and walking routes across all urban and rural locations, and to all rail stations
  • Upgrade and expand the National Cycle Network and integrate with existing local routes
  • Work with business to improve on-site facilities and develop routes
  • ECC to publicly state its commitment and funding to rebuild passenger transport services hit by market failure since the pandemic
  • To invest in innovative passenger transport solutions such as demand responsive transport using electric vehicles, aiming for commercial viability
  • Promote safe and accessible public rights of way
  • Expand the three existing Park and Ride and school zones projects
  • Improve cycling infrastructure to/from schools
  • Introduce school streets for 25 schools by 2022
  • Introduce six e-scooter pilot schemes across the county by the end of 2020
  • Introduce emissions charging and/or parking charges in town centres and ringfence income to invest in public transport and active travel schemes
  • Introduce five workplace levy schemes
  • Explore car sharing options
  • Launch county-wide National Car-Free Day
  • Support innovative solutions for last mile deliveries, introduce 10 local delivery hubs by 2022 and explore options such as retiming deliveries to reduce peak time congestion
  • Grow the electric vehicle charging network and capitalise on the facilities provided by the new Gridserve electric forecourt to charge and promote electric vehicles to encourage uptake
  • Electrify the authority’s fleet
  • Park and Ride: Embed micro-mobility solutions and EV charging points at all sites; use Park and Ride as a stepping stone to public transport and ringfence income for sustainable transport investment.

As well as their longer goals:

  • Introduce three new subsidy-free Park and Choose sites by 2030
  • Introduce 20 Low Traffic Neighbourhoods per annum from 2022 to 2030
  • Introduce an additional 20 school streets per year to 2050

This is a big list!, and some of the items are not exactly game-changing: let’s hope that for their final recommendations this Spring they manage to whittle these down to a shorter list of serious, and achievable, changes.

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