Arnold Warneken
Arnold Warneken

Harrogate District Green Party says: “No to Climate Coalition inaction”

9 August 2020

Arnold Warneken of Harrogate Green Party, and a member of Harrogate Council Climate Coalition, has written to Phil Ireland, the Coalition Chair. Arnold is calling for the Coalition to take decisive action in response to the climate emergency.

Arnold said:

I want the Coalition to open up, transform the way it operates, and act with a real sense of urgency. I’d like to see it engage with the community more by setting up a Citizens Assembly, and allowing non-councillors to take the lead.

Since the last meeting I have been aware of some frustrations, and I can understand why members feel that the issues are not being responded to as if we are ‘in an emergency’. This has even led to a member resigning from a Sub Group.

The Coalition needs to be able to make policy recommendations to the council. Now is the time for Harrogate to be brave and forward thinking – for example where are the sites for Park & Ride, where is the commitment for all council houses to be Passivhaus standard – it’s not enough just to say that these policies will be ‘considered’ or ‘encouraged’.

The Climate Coalition has an important role to play in firstly guiding the Council to declare a climate emergency, and then to strengthen the Council’s commitment to achieve district-wide carbon-neutral status.

I want the Coalition to become a change-maker, not just a talking-shop!

Email from Arnold Warneken to Phil Ireland, sent 7-8-20

Good morning Phil
We have now had an insight as to how effective the Coalition and its sub groups are in their present form, and although it is a learning curve, I am concerned that the Group is struggling to make progress.
I realise that I don’t see what is going on in the sub groups, but this is part of the problem.
At the last meeting I did suggest we had notes from these subgroups in advance of our Main Group meeting, as a verbal-only report doesn’t give us enough time to give the issues proper consideration
Since the last meeting I have been aware of some of the members frustrations, and am saddened that some feel that the issues are not being responded to as if we are in an “Emergency”. This has even led to a member resigning from a Sub Group.
I feel that we need to address these issues at the next meeting, and I do recognise that the Councillors and Officers are very busy even without Covid19  and now Devolution on the horizon, so I would like to consider the following at the meeting on the 25th of August 2020:

1  Review the Terms of Reference and make them fit for purpose.

    For example we need to have within them a mechanism for making change: for example taking the Sub Groups ideas and turning them into action,  & how does the Coalition get its voice heard by the whole Council?

2) Review how the Coalition is led, ie allow non District Council Members to lead

I have already alluded to the Councillors being overwhelmed, and I can see the Coalition getting put lower down the Agenda as pressure on Councillors increases.
When the Coalition was set up it was the intention that this would be reviewed anyway.

The council stated:
1. Establishing under the council’s leadership initially a climate change coalition bringing together residents groups, businesses, environmental groups and politicians to promote carbon neutrality.

Initially being the key word.

I believe that we need to engage with the public more, and seriously consider whether a Citizens Jury would be more effective?  I was told at our last meeting that we were a “closed group” when I suggested we invited the press to our meetings. When I set up Harrogate Enviromental Forum in 1991 the press were present keeping the wider community informed.  Why are we not doing the same now?   We should be proud of what we are doing.  We recognise that Climate Change is everyone’s problem, and everyone can help solve this.  The only reason I can think that we do not want the press there is they may expose what we are not doing.  If this is so, we should be ashamed.  The Coalition is a major player in influencing a local contribution to the Global Emergency of Climate Change.

I take my part in this process very seriously, and frankly the local authority is not doing enough to protect our future.  It’s good that a Beech Grove cycleway is being trialled, that 13,000 trees have been planted, and that the Council supports the North Yorkshire Rotters project, but it’s not enough!

The Council need to be brave and forward thinking – for example where are the sites for Park & Ride, where is the commitment for all Council Houses to be Passivhaus (it’s not enough to just say this will be “considered”)
These I know will cost money but the Council has to prioritise, and money spent on not protecting our existence is money wasted.  Yes you will probably agree to spend £47m on the Harrogate Convention Centre, but is that money well spent if by 2038 we are not Zero Carbon in the District?  Because if we don’t protect our planet there won’t be any visitors to Harrogate Convention Centre, as it will be gridlocked with cars and the air will be even more polluted.

We cannot delay the problem is not standing still, do we need powers that an emergency warrants, should we have incentives to reach our targets all this and more is why some local authorities have appointed a Climate Emergency Officer please give this consideration.

Harrogate Council: you are not alone in this campaign, lead the way & take us with you on a journey to give our children and grandchildren a future.

What do you want the answer to be when our grandchildren ask their parents  “what did granny and grandad do to save the planet?”

Yours very sincerely

Arnold Warneken

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