The West Midlands has declared a climate emergency and vowed to take urgent action to cut harmful emissions.
The declaration was made by the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) Board, which today used its annual general meeting to pledge to safeguard the environment.
Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands, said: “The West Midlands has a moral responsibility to tackle climate change, and that is why it is so important the WMCA Board has agreed to declare a climate emergency.”
Young people from Birmingham Youth Climate Strike prepare to give a passionate speech on the environment to the WMCA Board
Before considering five recommendations to refresh its approach to the environment, the WMCA Board heard from young activists from Birmingham Youth Climate Strike, who spoke passionately to plead the case for a concerted, collaborative effort to tackle climate change across the region.
The group, led by Olivia Wainwright, said: “Climate change is an issue that is affecting and will continue to affect all of us, regardless of age, class or location. It is indisputable that it will be the younger generations that will bear the brunt of the impacts.
“For years, our parents and grandparents have been running our world into the ground, and the consequences of their actions are now being foisted upon us.
“It is my generation that will have to bear witness to the destruction that climate change will inevitably bring, and we refuse to allow those that came before us to continue to throw our future away.”
Cllr Ian Courts, leader of Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council and the WMCA’s new portfolio holder for environment, energy and HS2, said: “We are listening. The combined authority has a massive leadership role to play in this, but it needs every person to participate.
“We need a step-change in our approach to address these problems, and this report recognises the importance of climate change as an issue across the combined authority.”
Cllr Ian Ward, leader of Birmingham City Council and WMCA portfolio holder for transport, reiterated his council’s aspiration for net zero carbon emissions by 2030.
He said: “This is probably the most important issue facing the world going forward, and more needs to be done.”
Cllr Ward also stressed that it was important to ensure the costs of a move towards zero emissions did not “further impoverish” less affluent communities.
The WMCA Board approved five recommendations, including an additional proposal put forward by Cllr Courts to “declare a climate emergency requiring urgent action.”
Cllr Courts said the WMCA’s approach should focus on four key elements – clean growth, clean air, natural capital and leading by example. The Board approved the report, with a recommendation to begin a rapid programme of engagement to develop a realistic and attainable carbon target this summer.
Mayor Andy Street, who earlier this month launched his own Clean Growth Challenge to find new solutions to tackle pollution, added: “We have been doing lots of great work to reduce carbon emissions, including trialling energy innovation zones and investing millions into public transport to encourage people to leave the car at home. One pledge I have made personally is that the West Midlands will have the first clean bus fleet outside of London by 2021.
“However there is plenty more work to be done, and today’s declaration underlines just how seriously we are taking climate change.”