For a Green Voice on Derbyshire County Council
The Green Party argues the UK should be aiming to get to net zero by 2030 - an exceptionally challenging but crucial target. While local authorities in the UK have relatively little power given how centralised the country is, there is nevertheless a really important role to play in pursuing this.
Green councillors would be pro-active in developing a Climate Action Plan in line with these targets. I would make the following three initial priorities to pursue such a plan and net zero emissions goal.
Strategies to greatly increase 'carbon capture' across Derbyshire, through afforestation and improved peat moor management.
These are crucial to achieving the 'net' in net zero, i.e. taking carbon out of the atmosphere. As a largely rural county, Derbyshire has very considerable potential to play a role in this.
The Committee on Climate estimates that to achieve net zero, we need to convert of 22% of current agricultural land to forest . Conversion of the relatively low-intensity agriculture of upland UK is vital if we are to achieve this target.
Peat moors are even more important. Peat moors are currently sources of CO2 in the atmosphere because they are in a bad state , but properly managed - as in the initiatives by great organisations like Moors for the Future - can absorb vast quantities of carbon (in Derbyshire, probably more than can be achieved by forests). Dealing with these issues involves working with landowners and other organisations like the National Park Authority, but also has benefits in terms of jobs (forestry and agro-forestry).
A strategy to convert Derbyshire's households from natural gas to electricity and/or heat pumps for heating and cooking.
The UK's electricity system is already on a rapid path of decarbonisation, as coal has been almost phased out. But our homes are almost all heated with natural gas and most of us cook with it also. These need to be shifted to electric heating and cooking and within a decade. This is a massive job-creation opportunity of course at the same time as crucial to getting to net zero, and the county council could play a key coordinating role in rolling out such a programme, in collaboration with national government and a range of private sector organisations.
A strategy for sustainable quarrying and cement manufacture.
Derbyshire is home to a large amount of such activity which is a significant employer. But it is highly energy intensive and cement manufacture accounts for substantial amounts of CO2 (about 4% of UK emissions, but higher for Derbyshire - and this explains almost certainly why High Peak's per capita emissions are comfortably the highest in Derbyshire). There are various 'sustainable cement' initiatives across the industry but operations in Derbyshire have not to my knowledge been involved in these. The council could be playing a really important role in innovating in this industry to keep good jobs in the county while transforming our economy towards decarbonisation.
There are many other things that would be needed of course also - radical improvements in public transport and cycling provision, transformation of agriculture to reduce reliance on sheep and cattle, renewable energy generation (we have fantastic potential for wind in the county), and improvements in housing energy efficiency, to name but some Green Party policies that are very relevant to our area.
To find out more about our policies in the areas that are Derbyshire County Council's responsiblity, see our manifesto.
Mat Paterson has spent thirty years researching and teaching climate change politics and is currently Professor of International Politics at Manchester University. He is the Green Party candidate for the New Mills and Hayfield division in the 2021 Derbyshire County Council elections.