What is a carbon-neutral Canterbury?

Car exhaust

Although Brexit has dominated the news for months, there’s another issue that is doing its best to cut through. Increasingly loud voices are clamouring for Canterbury to do something about climate change.

I agree. So I proposed that we make Canterbury carbon-neutral by 2030, and I’m glad to say my idea is supported by both the Lib Dems and Labour.

But critics have asked what that actually means, and if it costs money, how do we pay for it?

Put simply, it means we look at the total amount of carbon dioxide we produce from things like cars driving around the city or disposing of household rubbish, and then work out how to reduce or offset it until the figure is zero.

We can reduce emissions by switching to electric vehicles, recycling more efficiently or insulating our houses better. But that alone won’t be enough.

We also have to offset our emissions so where we can’t reduce things any further, we do something positive to balance things out. A great way to do this is by planting trees.

Many Canterbury roads outside the immediate city centre used to be lined with trees, but as they’ve died or been removed, they haven’t been replaced.

Charities such as the Woodland Trust will often provide trees at no cost to communities, and volunteering organisations can help with planting them. That only leaves the maintenance costs for the council to absorb, but since air pollution in the city already sits at illegal levels in certain areas, money will need to be spent to bring it back under control anyway.

Of course, it’s not just residents and the council that need to play their part. Businesses need to step in and act too. Some city centre traders like Unboxed are already getting involved by cutting out unnecessary packaging.

Any new housing developments must come with solar panels and source their construction materials to minimise environmental impact if they want planning permission.

And of course, any city serious about reducing carbon emissions has to make sure that all council policies meet basic environmental standards before they go ahead. So, no more multi-storey car parks in residential areas!

Some people will look at the plan to make Canterbury carbon-neutral and question why it’s in the city’s interest to carry out all this work, when it should be tackled at a national, or international level.

And there is a legitimate question. Why should we bother if Ashford or Margate aren’t making the same effort?

Well, to the doubters, here are three reasons why taking decisive action here in Canterbury is a good idea.

It cuts air pollution

Air pollution is the fourth biggest threat to public health after cancer, heart disease and obesity.

The World Health Organisation says “The health effects of air pollution are serious – one third of deaths from stroke, lung cancer and heart disease are due to air pollution. This is having an equivalent effect to that of smoking tobacco, and much higher than, say, the effects of eating too much salt.”

It creates a pleasant environment to live in

From cutting traffic jams to beautifying our streets with more trees, paying attention to the environment will make our city a nicer place to live.

It saves money in the future

By insulating our houses, installing more efficient boilers, and using solar panels, the cost of running our homes will fall. Electricity and gas will keep getting more expensive putting more of a drain on the home finances, but by residents working in collaboration with the council and public bodies today, the day-to-day cost of running a home will fall tomorrow.

So there you have it. Do you support Canterbury becoming carbon-neutral? I think you should. And that’s not just because if we don’t all act today, the world tomorrow will be a very different place.

To quote Rachel Parris: “If you want to stop uncontrolled immigration, you might want to stop the southern hemisphere from becoming uninhabitable”.


  1. Excellent article.

    Agree every word but would want to see more roadside hedges as well as trees
    And why whenever vehicle emissions are mentioned is the sole focus on electric cars?

    Lorries,vans and buses need to do their bit too

    I still can’t get over the sheer stupidity of encouraging more vehicles into St Dunstans by not providing a multi modal transport hub at the station

    Data on PM 2.5 pollution in Canterbury is now becoming available for the first time and will be further proof of the need for far more urgent action than envisaged in the CCC Air Quality “Strategy”

    As a floating voter I look forward to reading manifestos from the other parties and trying to gauge whether words really will be translated into actions if elected.

    Thank you Alex.Great stuff

  2. PS just been reading about Andy Street’s modal shift initiative in Coventry. Extremely imaginative and encouraging.

    Andy used to run John Lewis (very well) and is now Conservative Mayor of the West Midlands


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