This was blog post was originally published on 13th March 2020.
The debate on the climate emergency is one that has shifted from the fringes to the mainstream in just a few years. In communities like the ones I serve in South Yorkshire – that have been devastated by recent flooding – it’s not difficult to understand why. We’re no longer talking about the existential threat to future generations, but about the ever present threat to family homes and small businesses.
There is now close to universal agreement that the government must take urgent action to address the climate emergency. New research from Survation, found there was overwhelming demand across former “Red Wall” seats for substantial investment in the Budget to help local authorities deal with impact of climate change. This is hardly surprising when thousands of people across the North and Midlands are still facing major disruption from the floods.
The answer is not, however, simply a matter of extra funding: money alone will not be enough to solve the climate emergency. What national government must understand is that devolution of power to every town, city and region is pivotal. Regional and local government have a crucial role to play – it cannot just be left to handful of Minsters and officials in Westminster to tackle this crisis.
Currently, 269 councils and 8 combined authorities – including my own – have declared a climate emergency. We’ve proven that we understand the extent of the crisis, but we need the resources to make meaningful change.
With 100 companies responsible for 71% of global emissions, immediate and drastic steps must be taken to transform our economic model. Where Labour can make a big difference is by not only arguing for a Just Transition to a greener, fairer economy but by delivering one in our own communities. My ambition is for South Yorkshire to lead the way.
That’s why I recently convened elected representatives, anchor institutions and trade unions for the first time to agree a region-wide approach to tackling the climate emergency. This is devolution in action: bringing people together to get things done.
Our partners at our world-leading universities will play a leading role and identify opportunities to decarbonise our economy. Furthermore, I’ll publish a Strategic Economic Plan for South Yorkshire, which will set out our objectives for a sustainable regional economy that delivers well-paid, high-skilled, unionised jobs.
This is just the beginning and we know we don’t yet have all the answers. What we do know is that economic inequality and the climate emergency are inextricably linked and will define the political landscape for years to come. As a party we must ensure both crises are tackled in a way that leaves no community behind.
One of the most effective ways of decarbonising our economy would be for the government to give Mayors and Councils the tools to get on with the job. As the party of devolution, Labour must make the case for greater powers and resources for regional and local government. The very future of our planet is at stake, change is no longer a choice but an urgent necessity.
Please note – this was written when Dan Jarvis MP was Mayor of South Yorkshire between 2018-2022.