Guest blogger… Jack Scott

In a guest blog, Jack Scott Cabinet Member for Environment at Sheffield City Council tells us why fundamentally, we can’t have a strong economy in a pillaged environment. Read on …

I know how precious Sheffield’s environment is to its citizens. There are many areas where we can be very proud of our city’s green credentials – we have more parks and open spaces than any other city. We also have amongst the lowest landfill rate in the developed world, rising recycling levels and beautiful rivers that are increasingly clean. We also generate more solar power per person than anywhere else in the UK.

So many of us are waiting with baited breath to see what the government announces in the next round of onshore gas licenses, which could well include Sheffield. The stakes couldn’t be higher. The threat of climate change is very real, as our climate changes in very clear ways and at a rapid pace, as a result of our collective actions. The debate over the causes of climate change is over, as my comments on the IPCC report made clear.

In the UK, we are seeing the most extreme weather patterns since the last ice age. We now have the situation where Sheffield can have both a drought and flood almost at the same time, but certainly in a pattern of extreme weather.

Lots of people in Sheffield are already seeing the effects of a changing climate – through rising grain, wheat and food prices, poorer crop harvests, increased flooding and higher insurance costs. This winter just gone was amongst the warmest in our history. The 12 warmest years in our history have all come in the last 15.

Fundamentally, we can’t have a strong economy in a pillaged environment. That’s why we’ve launched Sheffield’s Green Commission (see here) . I want the Green Commission to help us become a national leader in protecting our environment and fighting climate change.

We know we have already discovered more fossil fuels than can safely be burned. The problem with fracking is not just the process – it’s conceivable that could be made safe. Ultimately, the gas produced through fracking is a dirty, carbon-based fossil fuel that will hasten the destruction of our climate. Instead, we need a revolution in energy generation, championed by the government and delivered by councils working with local communities.

That’s why Sheffield was amongst the first to take a robust line on fracking. Our leadership has paved the way for others to follow. Labour Newcastle is the latest to go frack-free. In their motion, they commended Sheffield’s approach, saying they expressed their “support for Sheffield council’s motion in opposition to fracking, and to other UK councils which have made similar statements”.

I know our position isn’t universally popular – the Master Cutler has provided an alternative view. But despite this opposition, the view of Sheffield City Council is that our environment and the safety of our citizens are too important to risk in a reckless dash for gas.

Because we don’t just share a city, we share a planet. We have to protect it together.

Jack Scott

Cabinet Member for Environment, Recycling & Streetscene

Sheffield City Council