• The Climate and Environment Emergency

Bovey Tracey Town Council declared a climate emergency in July 2019 and has pledged to do whatever is in its power, working with residents, to make Bovey Tracey and Heathfield carbon neutral by 2025. That’s only five years away ..... Teignbridge had made the same declaration in May of the same year. Dartmoor National Park declared a climate and ecological emergency on 26 July. Many other district, town and parish councils across Devon and the rest of the country have done the same.

<strong>The</strong> Climate and Environment Emergency

The Climate and Environment Emergency

Why an emergency?

There is general scientific consensus that the world is in the grip of a climate emergency and recent weather events appear to confirm this.   In 2018 the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change concluded that we have less than 12 years to act to avoid the worst impacts.  The committee agreed that a global rise of 2°C is likely to cause much more damage compared to a 1.5°C rise.   At the moment we are heading towards 2°C.  The five hottest years on record have occurred this decade and are attributable to emissions of carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels.  BUT IT IS NOT TOO LATE, if governments, councils, businesses and individuals all act together now.

In 2019 millions of young people and adults in 185 countries (including hundreds in Exeter) took to the streets to demand action by their governments to address climate change.  Over the past 12 months there have been devastating weather events in the Bahamas,  California,  Australia, Spain and other parts of the world. The climate emergency is considered by many to be the most important issue facing the world at the present time.

This sometimes feels like something we can do little about, but we believe we can do something if we all pull together.

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So, what is happening locally?

So, what is happening locally?

The people of Bovey Tracey and Heathfield have already been working on this issue through Bovey Climate Action, and more recently through Bovey Futures, particularly the successful Plastics Free Bovey campaign and the community garden at Parke. 

Climate Emergency: Bovey & Heathfield

This working group, with councillors and local residents, has been set up with the aim of raising awareness of the issues and proposing actions for the town council, Teignbridge council, government and also all of us.   The aim of the group is to do whatever is in its power, working with residents, to make Bovey Tracey and Heathfield carbon neutral by 2025.

The group are very keen to involve everyone in this discussion.  We are particularly keen to encourage young people of school or college age to get involved. Anyone interested can contact us on cebh@boveytracey.gov.uk

There are a number of workstreams and these, our newsletters and articles are included on the following pages.

We will keep you updated of the group’s work with a regular column in the Cottage Magazine, our Facebook page (Climate Emergency:Bovey & Heathfield) and our newsletters sent out to subscribers.   You can subscribe from our Facebook page or by emailing us on cebh@boveytracey.gov.uk

What can you do? It’s surprising just how much CO2 we produce in everyday life. Calculate your own carbon footprint at www.myclimate.org.

The BBC One/David Attenborough programme Climate Change: The Facts is a great place to start if anyone wants to learn more. 

July 2020

Can we use the learning from the coronavirus crisis to help tackle the environmental emergency?

The coronavirus pandemic has highlighted the destructive consequences we face when we ignore scientific expert warnings and sacrifice human health for the economy. Scientists warned us of the inevitability of a pandemic, yet governments did not commit sufficient resources to ensure we would be adequately prepared for when it came.[1],[2] It has shown our current global model of ‘economic growth at all costs’ and the laws of supply and demand to be extremely fragile in such a crisis – whilst many people will die from the virus itself, including frontline workers told to keep on working - many more will also die from the slowdown in our economies and the cutting off of global supply chains throughout the pandemic.

At some point we will come out of the other side of this – and what then? My biggest hope is that out of the sadness and grief we can emerge unified and better equipped to handle the even bigger, but slower moving, threat to our overall existence – the environmental crisis that we face. Like the coronavirus pandemic, if we don’t act quickly and decisively, those most vulnerable in our society will face the biggest impacts first; but, unlike the pandemic, we will none of us be immune to it over time – and we’re not talking generations away, only decades. So what should we be looking to do now and in the weeks and months to come as we emerge from lockdown?

First and foremost, let’s not talk about going back to “normal” – normal wasn’t working – we all saw the news of Australia’s wildfires, we’ve seen the glaciers retreating at unprecedented rates and, close to home, we’ve felt the effects of increased flooding in the UK. In what was “normal”, we were exposing ourselves to an ever increasing likelihood of pandemics through destruction of our natural environment - SARS, Ebola, COVID-19 – all can be linked to our misuse and increasing pressure on the natural world. Instead let’s talk about how to learn from our responses to the pandemic and be ready to fight the environmental threat.

Let’s start by giving the scientific community the respect it deserves and listening to both their warnings and advice. They have been, and continue to be at the heart of the response to the coronavirus. Had we ignored the experts in recent months, had they been dismissed as fearmongers, the peak of COVID-19 would be a far distant prospect. Let’s ask ‘what is the government going to do at the back end of this current crisis to avoid the even bigger environmental one’? Instead of ploughing huge funds into fossil fuel industry bailouts, highways development and building yet more outdated fossil fuel reliant homes on greenfield sites, this is a key opportunity to focus that investment on green industries, green jobs and setting us on a new more resilient path.

Controlling COVID-19, ‘flattening the curve’, is a slow process and the results lag weeks behind the measures that have been taken. Flattening the climate crisis curve will be a much slower process still, with results measured over decades. The global response to the pandemic has given us insights into how people can change their behaviours when required to do so and when the reasons for doing so are explained to them. Can we as a nation adopt the necessary mentality moving forward to address the climate emergency as quickly as possible? Can we delay some of our immediate gratification so that there is still a world left to enjoy in the future?

Through this pandemic, we’ve seen some significant positive environmental impacts. China, Italy, the UK, Germany and other countries are experiencing temporary falls in carbon dioxide and nitrogen dioxide of as much as 40%, greatly improving air quality and reducing risks of asthma, heart attacks and lung disease.[3] The World Health Organisation estimates that around 4.6 million people die each year from causes directly attributable to air pollution.[4]

People can now see vistas that until recently were completely hidden from view by smog – in the Indian region of Punjab, communities there can see the Himalayas for the first time in decades.[5] With less human movement, the planet has also literally calmed, with seismologists reporting lower vibrations from “cultural noise” than before the pandemic.[6] The picture is mixed for wildlife though; while in the UK, its likely to be a mostly positive impact, with significant reductions in roadkill and less hedgerow cutting leading to an increase in wildflowers, in other countries wildlife will face an increased threat, as the plummeting tourist industry results in less money and therefore staff with which to conserve endangered species and habitats.

Whilst the economy is impacted by not being able to travel, the impacts of which should not be underestimated, the pandemic has shown that a significant section of our global economy can run extremely well and at far lower environmental impact than the previous “normal”. We need this to be a lasting effect – those who don’t need to travel to “do a deal” or to have face to face meetings should not be travelling for work – that would leave the roads and rail clearer for those who do need to travel and result in a significantly lower number of flights, giving rise to better air quality in our towns and city centres, higher productivity and lower overall emissions. We also need to look at ever greater emphasis on local supply chains, supporting and using our local shops and utilising our homes as sources of production (i.e. growing our own food). We must do this equitably, so that people are not pushed into poverty.

When we come out of the lockdown, we need our economy to be focused on greener energy production and a rapid, major shift away from the fossil fuels that have helped build such a fragile global economy. Left unchecked, we’ve seen how the world’s global elite continues to exploit national crises to ignore their own impacts on the environment and our societal wellbeing. In the US, under the cover of the crisis, the White House has rolled back fuel-economy standards for the car industry, stopped enforcing environmental laws and has resumed oil pipeline construction. The US government’s economic stimulus bill also included a $50billion bailout for aviation companies.[7]

We’re at a cross-roads. I hope we can emerge from the extreme sadness of each and every life lost through this pandemic as a stronger, more compassionate and balanced world, focused on solving the environmental emergency facing all of us.

Stay safe and well

Debbie Fletcher, Deputy Mayor, Bovey Tracey Town Council

[1] https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2018/07/when-the-next-plague-hits/561734/

[2] https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2020/mar/29/uk-strategy-to-address-pandemic-threat-not-properly-implemented

[3] https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/apr/09/climate-crisis-amid-coronavirus-lockdown-nature-bounces-back-but-for-how-long

[4] https://www.sciencedaily.com/terms/air_pollution.htm

[5] https://edition.cnn.com/travel/article/himalayas-visible-lockdown-india-scli-intl/index.html

[6] https://www.theguardian.com/science/2020/apr/06/lockdown-has-cut-britains-vibrations-seismologists-find

[7] https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/apr/09/climate-crisis-amid-coronavirus-lockdown-nature-bounces-back-but-for-how-long

 November 2020

Trees .........trees.............trees

People who are concerned about climate change and biodiversity talk quite a bit about trees, but why are trees important? Trees can be described as the lungs of our planet. They have several very important functions. First, they capture and store carbon. They ‘breathe in’ the carbon that we emit. Trees, and other plants, take carbon dioxide (CO2) from the air and water from the ground. They then, through the process of photosynthesis and using the energy of sunlight, convert it into wood, and release oxygen into the air.  

In one year, an acre of mature trees (equivalent to an area just over half of a football pitch) absorbs the same amount of CO2 that is produced when you drive your car 26,000 miles. That’s once around the globe!

There are also other benefits of trees, including:

  • Preventing the risk of flooding, especially if they are planted uphill
  • Providing a canopy and habitat for wildlife and thus promoting biodiversity
  • Cooling streets and towns in hot weather
  • Helping to prevent soil erosion.

For the first five years of a tree’s life, its uptake of carbon is quite small. Its most efficient years in locking up additional carbon are from five to 50 years, with the carbon remaining stored after that. A mature tree absorbs CO2 at a rate of approximately 22 kilos per year. So, as well as planting new trees, we need to maintain and protect our mature trees. This could include having tree preservation orders on our older trees so that they should not be felled, and if they are felled, they must be replaced. 

Despite the clear benefits, the Woodland Trust suggests that England may now have tipped into deforestation, with more trees being cut down than planted for the first time in 40 years. The UK sits in the bottom 10% of all countries globally in terms of the natural biodiversity it has left.    

What is happening in Devon?

Devon Wildlife Trust (DWT), on behalf of the Devon Ash Dieback Resilience Forum, has secured funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund as well as other funders to enable the planting of a large number of mixed native trees over the coming months and years. The project, called Saving Devon’s Treescapes (SDT), will run for five years and aims ‘to provide hope and action in the face of the alarming changes that are already affecting our precious treescapes’. Some of the funds have been given to counter the effects of ash dieback across the county (DWT estimates that at least 90% of ash trees will die over the next few years and also notes that ashes represent a significant proportion of our native trees). One aim is to plant three native trees for each large ash which must be felled, two for a medium sized one, and one for a small ash. Mostly the replacements will be oak, field maple, lime, aspen, beech, birch, hazel and fruit trees. Such trees vary in mature size. An oak can grow to 45 metres over a long period, but a field maple or hazel can be mature after 20 years and only reach 12 metres high. A hazel tree can also be coppiced so that it grows more like a bush.  

DWT’s philosophy is ‘right tree, right place, right maintenance’ and it is committed to working with Bovey Tracey Town Council (the Council) to pursue these aims.

So what are we doing in Bovey Tracey?

  • The draft Neighbourhood Plan has several aims related to tree planting, including the objective: to protect and enhance the natural environment to ensure no net loss of priority habitat and species.
  • The parish of Bovey Tracey and Heathfield is a pilot site for the SDT scheme and there are several main strands to the project here.
    • The Council is keen to plant trees on its own and other public land and to this end has proposed to plant native and orchard trees in several locations. There have been recent consultations with local people about two sites and it is hoped there may be further sites in the future.
  • There will also be opportunities for any owners of larger plots of land who are interested in planting five or 500 trees (and any number in between) to work with the Council and DWT. If you are interested in this or know someone who may be interested, please do get in touch with the Council.
  • The Council is holding a tree give-away of 250 native saplings to the people of Bovey Tracey and Heathfield with guidance on how to plant and nurture them. October and November are the best months in which to plant such saplings. If you haven’t got space for one of these trees in the ground in your garden, you could grow it in a very large pot.

Our deputy mayor has suggested that in 12 months’ time we could have another 1000 trees within the parish.

Together we can make a difference.