As West of England Metro Mayor I’m hugely proud that the people of our great region are more aware and determined to protect the planet than anywhere else in the UK.
We are certainly ahead of our local politicians when we look at the record of our area for the past generation or so. As we all know, words are easy – while actions that really help the planet have been too few.
Greenwash – the deliberate putting out of misleading information to suggest an environmentally responsible image has become rife and it has fooled too many politicians.
Politicians’ desire to appear green, is of course, highest prior to elections – like the local elections we have across B&NES and South Gloucestershire next year in 2023. The public therefore have to be particularly questioning in the countdown to polling day to see if politicians’ deeds really do match their words!
The regional pledge to have net zero CO2 emissions by 2030 is hugely ambitious. As Metro Mayor, with responsibility for a population of over a million people, I worry if we can do it. The decision to allow the latest expansion of Bristol airport is a big setback. Airport bosses have used greenwash aplenty expecting all of us to make the CO2 cuts needed, while they want special treatment for themselves, to drive a massive coach-and-horses through our important net zero target.
But airports are not alone in greenwashing. Across the country profit before planet businesses use greenwash to get supersized anaerobic digester power stations built. Really careful analysis of claimed environmental benefits is critical.
B&NES councillors are about to decide on such a power station just downwind of Keynsham. Councillors from all political parties claim to be against this site in the green belt. They are all saying that specially growing maize to fuel such a plant is not green because it is unsustainable. They all say our region has enough such power plants already. They all say they are concerned about thousands of extra HGV journeys on our narrow streets. They all object to inappropriate noise, smell and health concerns for local people.
Let’s see which local politicians actually back their green words with actions. And I promise you this: I will be watching closely along with you, and I will be calling out those who let down our planet, and our local communities, at this time of climate and ecological emergency.