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Stevenage Citizens’ Panel on Climate Change

Action needed to reach Net Zero by 2030

In October 2020 one of our Stevenage members, Jim Borcherds, was invited by Stevenage Borough Council (SBC) to join a Citizens Panel on Climate Change. The panel was professionally moderated over four short sessions. The first two sessions were taken up with expert presentations while the last two were used by the participants to develop recommendations based on what they had heard. The speakers included the SBC portfolio holder for Environment and Regeneration; two primary school educationalists who reported younger children’s views and thoughts on Climate Change; speakers representing North Herts Friends of the Earth, Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust and the University of Hertfordshire chair for Planning and Urbanism.

Jim found the Panel very worthwhile and stimulating. He says that all 23 participants were fully engaged and felt their views had been heard. He is very disappointed though with SBC’s reaction to the Panel conclusions and recommendations. SBC reported the Panel’s four headline recommendations but haven’t published the report, in fact, it has only recently been released to participants as a draft and is marked ‘for internal use only’.

The Panel’s headline recommendations were:-

  1. Zero Food Waste Town
  2. Establish a collaborative framework to achieve sustainable infrastructure to reduce pollution
  3. Improve communications and recycling awareness incentives to public and commerce
  4. Implement climate emergency education and create awareness for Stevenage residents, businesses and visitors

Not only have these recommendations not been implemented but the full conclusions of the panel’s deliberations have not been published. For example, no mention had been made of the recommendation for lockable bike shelters located at key sites around the town. Jim did challenge the Council at their meeting in July 2021 on the lack of progress and was told that the Council, together with Herts County Council, were working on the Council’s Climate Strategy and Action Plan.  In a detailed written response SBC stated that details of the cycling hangers had been widely communicated in various consultation documents and directly with interested groups. In addition, it was stated that the October 2021 update to the Climate Strategy would detail the panel’s findings and how they were being incorporated into actions in 2021/22. However, a search of the SBC website found no evidence of this. Jim points out that it was envisaged that there would be ongoing engagement between the Panel and the Council, but this too has not happened.  SBC is a member of the Hertfordshire Climate Change and Sustainability Partnership with 11 other local authorities but, except for ‘sustainable development’, SBC contributions to this group’s website all date from July 2020.

North Herts and Stevenage Green Party agree with Jim that SBC’s progress towards net zero is not matching the stated aspirations and more evidence of actions taken need to be seen to meet the Climate Emergency declared in 2019.