Bristol Green Capital 2015 – time for positive thinking?

DSCN0141The launch of Bristol Green Capital (BGC) takes place this weekend, with light shows, circus acts and no little fanfare. It’s a great recognition of all the city has done over many years to push itself forward as a “green” city, at the forefront of environmental agendas, and leading the way on green issues. It’s an opportunity to recognise that we are not there yet and there’s still a long way to go in improving the city from an environmental perspective. But it is also an opportunity to recognise all the hard work that many individuals and organisations have done across the city for several decades. Bristol isn’t green capital because of a small number of projects and ideas incorporated in a series of bids over the last few years, it’s green capital because of the longstanding commitment people in the city have had to improving the environment, providing education on sustainability issues,and leading the way when it comes to projects and activities to support green issues.

As a Bristol city councillor (between 1994 and 2002) I led the council’s work on green initiatives and sustainable development. I was responsible for setting up our work on Local Agenda 21, involving local communities from across the city in the development of ideas to make our city greener and more sustainable. I am partly responsible for things like the CREATE Centre and the Eco Home, both initiatives at the forefront of thinking at the time. I was invited to speak at local government meetings across the country and in Europe to talk about the great work Bristol was doing on environmental issues in the 1990s. We were definitely seen as leading the way, others were jealous of what we had done and wanted to learn from us. I believe that could still be the case if we get things right during BGC year.

I was also the chief executive of the Western Partnership for Sustainable Development (WPSD), set up by the four councils, the chamber of commerce and a number of third sector environmental organisations, to develop environmental initiatives across the West of England. We delivered an environment festival back then, that has continued and grown since. Sadly at the time, apart from Bristol, the other councils were reluctant to provide funding, and keeping the organisation gaining was a real struggle. But it did serve to pave the way for partnership working on environmental issues in a way that was innovative and creative at the time and much of which has held strong to this day – public, private and community sectors working together on a common agenda is undoubtedly the only way real progress can be made.

You might wonder why I am tracking back to history, talking about stuff that is a good 10-15 years ago? Well, mostly because things seems be coming full circle – back then we led the way on environmental issues, now with BGC we’re seen to be leading again and have an opportunity to showcase just what Bristol can do. Whilst I haven’t been involved in BGC I do feel a real affinity with the concept and the idea because of my past involvement in sustainability issues in Bristol. I do believe that, despite a few misgivings, a whole lot of good will come from this year as Green Capital. It really is an opportunity to showcase Bristol on a European stage. I hope all those that have contributed over many years are still involved and will seize the chance to highlight their work and I hope the communities of Bristol continue to engage with the ideas and initiatives as they develop throughout the year. For sure, mistakes have been made along the way and there has been an element of negativity about some of the process to date, but now it’s here perhaps we need to embrace the concept and make it work?

I look forward to a year of serious debate about sustainability issues, and about how we can make Bristol greener, more sustainable and a better place to live. I look forward to seeing progress on improving Bristol’s transport system, reducing car use, and reducing pollution. Above all, I look forward to seeing people engage in the process, from across the city, and to seeing tangible improvements in local neighbourhoods. I’m not sure what the official measures of success are for BGC but no doubt we’ll all judge on the basis of what we believe to be important – I know I will.

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7 thoughts on “Bristol Green Capital 2015 – time for positive thinking?

  1. What a load of blaloney! I have lived in Bristol since 1979 and in all those 35 yrs Bristol has not even started to tackle the real issues of transportation within the city. The Council is all about tax and spend. CPZ’s replaced by RPS’s (because nobody wanted CPZ’s) are just forcing the commuters out of our city giving them no alternative to get to work. Use the bus system the council say, at a time when we now know that it is the emissions from diesel engines which is causing the most toxic pollution. Drive from James Barton roundabout to Baldwin street between 10am & 11am and count how many buses you will see (all running their engines) but with less than a handful of people on them. Why have we not moved forward with an effective tram style system similar to Dublin for example, answer because we have had years of totally useless ineffective local governement only interested in fighting each other. Now we have a council that can’t make a decision because we have a mayor who is all powerful. How many times did the council dig up the centre (opposite the Hippodrome) to re-lay the surface – very green, I think not. I could go on and on, there is so much material! Bristol – Big Green Capital – it is just an exercise for George Ferguson to get in the spotlight so that once he is replaced he can go on to other things, probably in Europe and earn his wedge!

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    • Robin, I do take your point about transport and the centre, and agree with you. But there is more to Bristol’s green credentials and Green Capital than that. Transport is undoubtedly the big issue and one where there seems to be little agreement about what to do.

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  2. BGC clearly hasn’t captured the imagination of ordinary people. It’s a top down elitist project with, at best, little relevance to most people and, at worst, it marginalises real green campaigners such as those in Avonmouth and those who fought to save the city’s greenbelt at Ashton Vale.

    Oddly, the businesses, bureaucrats and elites now putting themselves centre stage for this green PR exercise are the same people who wanted to build a plastic stadium and McDonalds drive-thru on the greenbelt and are happy to pollute Avonmouth.

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    • Yes to a point I would agree with that, and I wrote a piece for Bristol 247 a while ago about the need to engage neighbourhoods and communities in the BGC programme. It would be a real disaster if local people, already engaged in green issues, felt excluded from BGC. What a wasted opportunity that would be?

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  3. As always, spot on Tessa,,,and we have left it a bit late, as like everyone, I speak to about the , “Green Capital”, it is followed by a blank expression, and the question ” well what are we leading Europe in, on the Green front, ?????,, with another blank face,,, lot of Green smoke and Mirrors ? ” Not my words, many many are dumbfounded. So its either lack of communication to the public, or we haven’t got anything exemplary.

    Working towards and talking about is not an answer. Any way, this City is my city, and our city, and a brilliant place to be.

    Bristol Business can come to the rescue, and by the middle of the year, hard and fast, deals could be done, to really make a difference, just needs Bristol City Council to talk to us.

    The confirmation of the ring road and Metro Bus is brilliant, that doesn’t count to the Green Capital, as that is just a long over due, improvement of our desperate transport infrastructure.

    Any way hello Bristol City Council, Bristol Business is here and waiting to work with you, you have to come out and ask, we can carry on without you, and stand back and watch the train crash, if you want. That really would be stupid on every level.

    Roger Lowrey

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  4. Pingback: On the blog – what’s popular? | TessaCoombes

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