Monday, October 30, 2006

How green is Bristol?

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I very much like the idea of Bristol leading the way and becoming model 'green city' as outlined by City Council Leader Barbara Janke ('Let's be the best eco city', Bristol Evening Post, 28 October) but what stands in the way of this genuinely becoming the case more than anything is the massive environmental impacts of the city itself ! Economic activity in Bristol is fighting against our environment, as is well illustrated by our traffic congestion and air pollution problems existing alongside a poor quality and expensive public transport system.

There are, as she points out, many excellent organisations based here working on making the world greener - she names the Soil Association, Sustrans, Bristol Zoo and environmental businesses, to which I would add the Schumacher Lectures, @Bristol, the city farms, the CREATE Centre and the BBC Natural History Unit and great organic and local food suppliers like the Better Food Company. I've no doubt that there are many others.

However, what is vital is to keep a sense of context and scale here. Take the city's carbon emissions as one indicator of green-ness. The council itself has estimated that Bristol emits nearly 6 tonnes of carbon per person each year. A sustainable carbon emissions level is more like 1 tonne per person each year!

The 'best eco city' would not be a factor of five or six times away from sustainable carbon emissions, to say the least. We continue to be a very long way from being green as a city because national and local government policies are either too little too late or lacking in coherence and consistency between social, economic and environmental policies.

To make real progress towards being a truly green city needs a thorough and radical approach, and so the 'green city' needs a strong group of Green councillors to help to take us there.