On 18 September Councillor Holly Waddell was one of the speakers at the.COP26 Coalition Newcastle March and Rally. By agreement with Scott Dickinson, Holly represented Northumberland Labour and himself as Leader in emphasing Northumberland Labour’s commitment to action on climate change. She spoke about the huge potential of Northumberland in helping meet COP goals and how so much more could and should be achieved in this county.

As the youngest County Councillor in Northumberland, climate change hugely affects my own future. I represent Northumberland Labour today and we are pressing politically for urgent action on climate change. Our Leader Scott Dickinson, and any future labour administration would have the drive and commitment to tackle the climate emergency. 

Northumberland is capable of punching above its weight to help meet COP goals for the whole of England. We can help with mitigation and adaptation. We can be a major carbon sink. We can protect the vulnerable and restore habitats. We’ve got potential for green industries. 

As a large rural county with a low population, we’ve got huge potential for carbon storage in natural resources and for green industry for a  just transition. We’re already seeing what can be achieved under North of Tyne Mayor Jamie Driscolls leadership.

 Northumberland’s Tory councils Climate Action Plan doesn’t meet the Paris targets. It focuses on the council’s own emissions. It proposes the whole county goes to net zero by 2030, but it’s not clear how. Having a plan that falls well short of reaching net zero in a county with so much potential is not acceptable.

So, what are our opportunities? Expanding the Great Northumberland Forest has massive potential. We need to create indigenous woodland, not intensive conifer plantations, which is good for the environment, people and biodiversity. The current target is to increase the area covered by Kielder Forest by only 5% over 10 years. What about our potential for wind, solar and wave power?

The Great North Bog is another opportunity. Peat bogs are as important as the Amazon as a carbon sink but give off greenhouse gases unless properly managed. Northumberland has large and important peatbogs. We need to do more peat bog restoration and preservation, more quickly. 

There is also potential off our beautiful coastline. The plan doesn’t include anything about growing seagrass and kelp and plankton although that’s faster and more effective than trees. 

Northumberland is aiming low. 

Getting Local Authorities to improve climate action takes political will. Local people are very important in holding local politicians to account. You put us in our positions to make a difference. Choose us carefully and make your voice heard!