Local Authorities are urged to protect green spaces to mitigate Climate Change

Press release issued by the London Green Belt Council on 1st July 2019:

Local authorities in London and the Home Counties which have declared a ‘Climate Emergency’ in their districts, and which propose to adopt strategies and action plans to tackle climate change, are being urged to include policies of stronger protection for green spaces in their plans, as these provide vital climate change mitigation.

The London Green Belt Council (LGBC), which represents over 100 environmental and community groups across the region, warns that some local councils are being inconsistent by declaring a Climate Emergency but failing to prevent development on Green Belt countryside and open spaces which provide vital mitigation for climate change. Some of these local authorities are even putting forward large swathes of Green Belt land for housebuilding despite their professed commitment to environmental protection.

LGBC Chair Richard Knox-Johnston says: “The Green Belt is a vital green lung for people in London and the wider South East. By protecting green spaces it is making a hugely important contribution to people’s health and well-being as well as maintaining essential eco-systems and providing wildlife corridors.

“Green spaces help to mitigate climate change because carbon is absorbed by vegetation and held long-term in soils emissions. They also help us adapt to climate change by absorbing rainwater and cooling our towns and cities. The more green space we lose, the more we are at risk from flooding and rising temperatures, two of the predicted effects of climate change.

“District and borough councils are absolutely right to recognise the seriousness of climate change and to acknowledge the role that local government can play in tackling the climate crisis, but if they do not also pledge to defend the Green Belt and countryside from development then they are failing in their duty to protect our communities and environment.”

The LGBC is calling on all local authorities to state categorically that climate change mitigation requires the protection of Green Belt countryside and open spaces, and to agree to block developers’ proposals for building on Green Belt land. This is especially important, the LGBC points out, at a time when London itself needs to become more resilient to climate emergencies which means it needs to have plenty of green spaces around it.

Mr Knox-Johnston adds: “Giving up Green Belt to development is an easy answer to the housing shortage but actually it does nothing to improve the affordability of housing – all it does is leave communities with less greenspace. In fact, there has never been a greater need to protect the Green Belt from development.”

The LGBC is currently working with a wide range of partner organisations to produce a consultation paper setting out “A Vision for the Future of London’s Green Belt”. This emphasises the Green Belt’s value for health and well-being, biodiversity and environmental sustainability, and its crucial importance to the fight against climate change.

For further information on the work of the LGBC, go to londongreenbeltcouncil.org.uk

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