Voters across Gedling borough questioned local council candidates on Thursday (29) evening on their plans to combat climate change if elected on 6 May.
The issue remains especially important to electors in the borough who are surrounded by areas of natural beauty such as Sherwood Forest and the nearby Peak District.
The event was chaired by the chair of the Friends of Gedling House Woods – Frank Knowles.
The organisation aims “to protect, maintain, and develop the local natural environment of the woods and meadows”.
The hustings were organised by the Nottingham Climate and Nature Monitors, “a group of concerned constituents who have come together to encourage an ambitious approach to climate and nature challenges and opportunities for Notts County Council”.
Labour’s incumbent councillor, Jim Creamer, is hoping for re-election to the Carlton Hill ward.
He was joined by the Liberal Democrat candidate for the same ward, Paul Hughes.
Margret Vince of the Green Party is standing for a seat representing Newstead.
All eight Conservative candidates, and those standing as independents, had prior commitments.
No candidate downplayed the issue of climate change, Mr Hughes stating that it – as well as resulting biodiversity loss – is the “greatest long term threat to mankind”.
“We must take urgent action”.
Ms Vince agreed, calling it the “biggest threat to humanity”. The issue should be “informing all County Council policies”.
She claimed that neither Conservative nor Labour councillors had done enough thus far to combat overall harm to the planet, suggesting that Green Party representatives would “hold them to account”.
Mr Hughes called for Nottinghamshire County Council to immediately declare a climate emergency, stating that the Coronavirus pandemic gives us an opportunity so as not to return to “the old normal”, building on the reduced carbon emissions seen during lockdown.
Mr Creamer emphasised how councils should “lead by example”, ensuring a “healthy, clean, and safe” local environment.
Moreover, he claimed that the Conservative’s current commitment for net zero emissions by 2030 was not initially voted for by them and was put forward by Labour initially.
Also urging the council to declare an emergency, Ms Vice expressed her concerns regarding the underlying reasons for the climate crisis, namely a “profit based economy” and “reckless consumerism of the environment”.
Also a common feature of the candidates’ aims was the electrification of the main midlands rail line.
Ms Vice said that this was “a long time coming” as she also voiced her opposition to HS2 and the planned expansion to East Midlands Airport.
Moreover, the consensus was that pensions must be diversified from fossil fuel sources.
An audience member lamented, “I hate the fact that my pension is ruining my grandchildren’s future”.
Another attendee added that she thought that this could be mitigated if the government would be yet “more positive about green investment”.
In addition, most candidates suggested that changes needed to be implemented at the site of the Ratcliffe-on-Soar incinerator.
Mr Hughes denounced it as a “very messy way of generating energy”.
Ms Vice similarly highlighted how the process was “not great for air quality”, and raised concerns about the road transport required in order to transport waste with which to “feed the beast”.
Much of this burnt material could also be recycled.
Local recycling as a whole would be made a lot easier, all candidates said, if existing closed centres were reopened, Mr Hughes calling the council’s Veolia contract “nothing short of a disaster”.
Ms Vice suggests the implementation of wind turbines or solar panels on the incinerator site whilst preserving its trademark towers.
Whilst Mr Hughes agreed, however, Mr Creamer raised concerns about the council’s sway over a private company.
This is despite his preference for it “not to be there”. In some ways, “it’s nothing to do with us”, but he would “sooner have incineration than landfill”.
Uniper runs the power station site and submitted plans for a new incinerator worth £330m in September 2020.
On electric vehicles, all candidates called for more charging points in all council managed car parks, with Ms Vice stating that they should be made a standard feature of all new building developments.
Mr Creamer also suggested that they should be provided in the staff car parks of local businesses.
Hydrogen vehicles, on the other hand, are not a flawless solution, professed the candidates. The hydrogen manufacturing process produces carbon in turn.
A public information campaign was agreed upon by all candidates to this effect, informing firms as to what positive changes they can implement.
This also applies to schools, candidates agreeing that council officers should liaise with comprehensive establishments and academies in order to create informative activities and organise speakers which would convince the next generation of the planet’s perilous state and what they could do to help.
Mr Creamer would like to see children “telling their parents what they’re doing wrong”.
Notwithstanding Mr Creamer’s admission that Gedling is “not exactly cycle friendly” being a “little on the hilly side”, another common aim was to improve and add to the region’s cycling infrastructure.
Ms Vice suggested more showers in work places for those travelling to work via bicycle.
Lower speed limits were also proposed by all, lowering overall emissions and making local parks safer to visit.