The climate emergency is the single biggest challenge that we face. When the horrors of COVID-19 and the pain of the fallout are over, the world will still be faced with an even graver threat.
It might seem too big an issue for us to influence. After all, what can individual citizens or local councils do to combat such huge threats to the existence of life on earth? I understand people who ask that question just as much as I have a huge amount of empathy with the increasing number of people suffering climate anxiety.
But that only encourages me to do more. When I proposed the climate emergency motion to the borough council I wanted to set an ambitious target for dealing with carbon output not just from the council but across the wider town. That has been covered in the Carbon Neutral Cheltenham report, which sets out a broad roadmap for our work. I know that we can only succeed if we work together with communities.
As of last week, I have joined the borough council cabinet as the member for Climate and Communities. That title is no accident – community and climate go hand-in-hand. That’s why I’ll be redoubling efforts on that front. I know that already we have many people doing such great work. Whether it’s Vision21, Cheltenham Green Doors, Cheltenham and Tewkesbury Cycle Campaign, Charlton Kings Parish Council or many more besides, we have a huge amount of work going on already. However, I know that there are huge numbers of people who want to get involved but don’t currently know what they can do to help or how they can make a contribution.
My pledge is to make things more accessible, to listen and to try to bring people together. After one week in the role, it’s clear that there is a huge amount of work but we also have huge potential to change things for the better.