There’s another crisis looking, even more deadly and destructive than Coronavirus and this time we must act.

There’s another crisis looking, even more deadly and destructive than Coronavirus and this time, we must act.  We can not afford to turn away any longer.  Dealing with the Covid-19 crisis has got me thinking all the more about this next big crisis yet to come. The Climate crisis. It is going to hurt our nation and the globe in ways never imagined.  We must be prepared. We have now lived through a crisis, we have seen how quickly we needed to, but could adapt, how behaviours and ways of doing things, we never imagined possible were implemented within days. We also learned how timing is imperative. The point at which the country went into lockdown, when mass gatherings were stopped and when social distancing was introduced, all determined ultimately, how many lives would be saved.

The world’s best scientists have been warning us about the climate crisis for 40 years, their voices getting louder yet in the 40 years since we were first warned, despite many ordinary people’s best efforts, carbon emissions have risen by 60%. More CO2 in the air, means ultimately more warming of the planet. Year on year we reach record temperatures. When we reach 1.5 degrees warmer, it is game over. Life on this planet as we know it will collapse. We don’t have decades, we have years. But getting there will mean dealing with it like it really is. A crisis.

Since lockdown was called in February, cars were parked and planes grounded. Despite this, the amount of Co2 in our atmosphere still broke records in April.

The truth is, no matter how many envelopes we recycle and bean burgers we buy, we don’t have the power as individuals to make the big changes we need to stop this crisis. But as political leaders we do.

The coronavirus has showed us something astounding- we have proven that it is possible to put the old system on hold, that money can found to get us through a crisis, and that leaders can when it comes to it, put people’s lives above profits.

The question now is, do we go back to life as normal, or do we create and prepare for a new normal, a better normal, a normal that ensures a healthy and safe environment for our kids, a normal where people’s well being is given the same credence as the economy.

So let’s stop and ask ourselves, what don’t we want to come back as we move on from the Coronavirus? What can be done better? What can we do ourselves? How can we improve our communities? What can our governments do, local, regional and national?

In this country, we have all the tools, and the money we need to solve the climate crisis. They just need to be implemented.

We must demand it for our futures sake.

There are so many ideas we could begin to put in place in the Tees Valley, and we must begin by calling a Tees Valley Climate Emergency.

Some simple ideas that could  be pushed through at a Tees Valley level are

  • Supporting flexible and home working, providing incentives, guidance and recognition to companies who implement this
  • A Tees Valley environmental awards, support and framework, to support and recognise those businesses who are going above and beyond in reducing emissions and contributing to a zero carbon future
  • Increase funding to low carbon jobs, training, research and industries
  • Ensuring investment funds of local and combined authorities follows climate tackling industries, zero carbon initiatives and is divested away from fossil fuel related industries
  • Post Covid-19, build back better funding for businesses could have climate and emissions targets attached
  • Create a community energy fund and incentives for community energy and retrofitting scheme development
  • Setting up a people’s assembly on climate
  • Significant investment in cycle use including financial support for e-bikes and cargo bikes alongside fast tracking cycle route development
  • Prioritising public transport investment, including fast tracking developments at Darlington Station

These are just a few of the things we could be spearheading, there are more. But one thing I am sure of is with leadership, bravery and vision we can build back a better Tees Valley for people and for the planet. We can avert the crisis but we must do it now.