Yesterday, Birmingham City Council launched its Green Infrastructure Strategy at the first Sustainability Forum since the election, so it was also a first opportunity to catch up with new councillors and the cabinet member for Green, Safe and Smart city, James McKay.
We had become accustomed at these events to the now ex-deputy leader Cllr Paul Tilsley speaking at the start and then making his excuses straight away, having given pretty much the same speech every time, so it was a refreshing change to have Cllr McKay taking over. Not only was he quite humble in the way he spoke about learning from the experts in the room, but he also took great care to praise the previous administration for the work they had done on the green agenda – most unlike a politician.
Even better than this was the fact that he said some genuinely new things that made us sit up and take notice that there is some real ambition to drive forward the green agenda from the new leadership. If he achieves the target that Albert Bore has set him – that is for Birmingham to be able to bid to be the Green Capital of Europe within the next ten years, there will have to be some serious action on the ground and, as Cllr McKay himself said, a real step change in the pace at which things are achieved.
We still don’t know how the new Green Commission will work, but hope that it’s going to deliver on the promises we have heard and start ensuring that Birmingham is going to actually hit the 60% reduction in CO2 emissions, which it is committed to doing, yet so far is not making nearly enough progress towards. This is particularly true on transport issues, which I have looked at in detail recently and for which there is little idea how reductions.
What we heard about the Green Infrastructure Strategy yesterday was very promising and an example of where the need for joined-up thinking between different departments, strategies and organisations is actually being taken seriously. Nick Grayson gave a very interesting presentation showing the detailed work that has been done to research the impacts of different environmental concerns on Birmingham, including flooding, the urban heat island effect, and air pollution. They key to helping to mitigate all of these problems can be found in improving green infrastructure.
We also heard from the Wildlife Trust on their plans for Nature Improvement Areas and Prof Penny Anderson from the Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management, so there was a great deal of expertise in the room on biodiversity and green infrastructure. Our lead campaigner, Kara Moses, asked a question about our Bee Cause campaign and trying to ensure that everyone works together to ensure we pool our resources as effectively as possible for the benefit of wildlife and especially endangered pollinators on which we are concentrating.
We look forward to seeing more evidence of what the new administration is planning to do to ensure Birmingham become a much greener, safer and smarter city. If they deliver the measures we need to take in order to hit CO2 reduction, air pollution reduction and nature improvement targets, we could see some dramatic and very beneficial changes in the city.