Acting for a green future for our great city

On Tuesday 25th April, at a special hustings, Cllr Chas Booth, Green spokesperson on Environment and Sustainability, set out the changes to sustainable development that Greens want to see in the capital.

We have seen some modest steps forward on sustainability over the last five years. The council has a sustainable energy action plan, and has set up an energy services company. The council has a plan to cut carbon emissions too. But unfortunately there has been too little progress in this area – we are not cutting emissions fast enough, and the council’s record on waste and recycling is not good.

As part of a group of Green councillors for the last five years, we have some proud achievements, but there is still plenty more work to be done, and I’m confident that electing more Green councillors on 4 May is the best way to carry on that work.

So I’m proud to have successfully passed a motion at Edinburgh Council in 2015 calling for the divestment of Lothian Pension Fund from fossil fuels. But unfortunately that stalled when it reached Pensions committee, so there’s more work to do in actually seeing that through to fruition, and if you elect more Green councillors next week, we will work hard to do that.

I’m also proud that in February 2015 I successfully passed a motion at Edinburgh Council, calling for a ban on fracking within the Edinburgh Council area. But there’s more work to do in seeing that translated into a change to our planning policies, so if you elect more Green councillors next week, we’ll redouble our efforts to do that.

And I’m also proud to have been a director of the Edinburgh Community Solar Cooperative which has successfully installed 1.4MW of solar panels on 24 public buildings around the city. But there’s more work to be done to expand community-owned renewables in the city. If you elect more Green councillors next week, we’ll work hard to do that.

And Green councillors work hard at a local level as well. We have supported community gardens and community food growing initiatives, such as the support my colleague Gavin Corbett has given to the Grove in Fountainbridge or Green councillor Melanie Main’s push to establish a community greengrocer in Bruntsfield, or the support I’ve given to Leith Community Croft in my own ward. It’s essential that we look at food growing holistically, consider the energy and climate change implications and involve the community in those initiatives.

Greens have also pushed the council to establish Scotland’s first Low Emission Zone. It was in January this year that I moved an amendment at Transport and Environment Committee calling for a Low Emission Zone in Edinburgh, which to our astonishment was voted down by all the other parties combined. Air quality is in breach of legal safe limits in the city, and that is killing people. Council inaction on this issue is completely unacceptable.

And at housing committee, and planning committee, we have pushed for more action to insulate Edinburgh’s homes. It is scandalous that some Edinburgh residents are living in such cold, drafty homes and on such low incomes that they have to make a choice between turning their boiler on and having a hot meal – to choose between heating and eating, in other words. That is a choice that nobody should have to make in modern 21st century Scotland.

But it goes without saying that none of the Green achievements of the last five years would have been possible without dialogue and partnership working with other organisations. Whether it’s listening to Friends of the Earth Scotland on tackling air pollution and the need for a Low Emission Zone, or dialogue with Divest Lothian about working for fossil-fuel free pensions, the input from third sector organisations and community groups has been essential.

Across the city, if you elect more Green councillors, it means tackling rip-off housing costs by introducing a rent pressure zone; it means valuing the workers who look after our loved ones with a “living wage plus” of at least £9.20 an hour; and it means working with Transport for Edinburgh to expand the availability, reliability and affordability of our excellent public transport network.

Green councillors want to see a Green future for our great city. If you share our vision, please vote for it on Thursday 4 May. Please mark a 1 next to the name of the Green candidate on your ballot paper, and we can finish the work that we’ve started.