One Planet Cardiff – will this deliver for the city?

Whilst there is much to be welcomed in this document, it is deeply flawed and lacks ambition.

Pic credit: Franzisko Hauser

ONE PLANET CARDIFF (OPC) – Will this deliver for the city?

Whilst there is much to be welcomed in this document, it is deeply flawed and lacks ambition.

OPC says (p.20) that the Council is committed to – 

  • A target for Cardiff Council to be Carbon Neutral by 2030; and 
  • To work with city-wide partners to develop a road map and action plan for a Carbon Neutral City by 2030. 

It seems credible that the Council could become carbon neutral by 2030, but it seems less likely that the city can become carbon neutral in just over 8 years time, given that it doesn’t appear that work on this has yet started. However, there is ambiguity in the second commitment – does it mean that there will be a city wide road map and action plan by 2030, rather than the city becoming carbon neutral by 2030? There is a very big difference between the two and the ambiguity needs to be clarified. The extent to which the Council alone can reduce its carbon emissions is only a small part of the whole picture. 

As well as the climate emergency, there is also a biodiversity (nature) emergency. Although the two are linked, biodiversity will still decline, even without climate change, because of factors such as  habitat loss and use of herbicides and pesticides. 

The OPC strategy, which mainly seems to equate tree planting with improving biodiversity,  fails to recognise

  • the vital importance of biodiversity 
  • the scale of the response required, and 
  • the urgency with which the Council needs to respon

OPC states that there are 165 endangered species at risk in the city, but does not explain how it will protect them. Increasing trees in the city won’t help reptiles, for example – one of the most threatened group of species.

The Council Cabinet received a report (November 2020) from its Biodiversity Task and Finish Group, which took evidence from many people with a professional interest in biodiversity. The report set out actions that the Council should take to safeguard biodiversity. Sadly, many of the Report’s recommendations were rejected by the Cabinet. The Council must revisit that Report and incorporate the recommendations into the OPC.

Apart from its failure to address the biodiversity emergency, OPC barely mentions building construction and demolition – an activity that is hugely carbon emitting. For example, cement is the cause of 8% of global emissions

Yet we know that within the city there are plans to –

  • knock down the Queens Arcade and re-develop it with retail and a hotel
  • build a new arena, hotel, car park, shops, etc, at Atlantic Wharf, involving the demolition of many buildings
  • extend the Sports Village in Cardiff Bay

Does the Council know how much CO2 will be produced by just these projects? And what will it do to reduce/mitigate this? For OPC to be meaningful, it must explicitly address the issue of building demolition and new-build, not just that caused by its own building programme, but also by the private sector.

Further, OPC must become the Council’s central and most important strategy, against which all activity, policies and strategy are measured. Otherwise, OPC risks becoming just another of many Council strategies and action plans, while “business as usual” continues, carbon emissions are not controlled and biodiversity declines. 

In order to address both the climate and nature emergencies, it is vital that Cardiff citizens are informed and engaged with the issues – partnership between the Council and citizens is essential here. The Council has established a Climate Emergency Board to oversee OPC, which will report through the Public Service Board structure. It does not appear that there are any environmental groups involved in this, nor citizens. Partnership between the Council, other bodies and citizens needs to run though every aspect of OPC for it to succeed. 

We note that a One Planet Standard has very recently been published. This governance standard regarding sustainability could usefully be included in OPC for all relevant organisations.

Finally, the OPC “Action Plan” must be re-written to set out clear targets with timescales; and named Council Officers/Departments identified as responsible for meeting the targets. 

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