Last week FoodFutures came across a new network that may be of interest to us here in Lancaster, particularly considering Lancaster City Council has declared a climate emergency and our District includes the Lune Valley and Forest Of Boland.

A group of rural council leaders have launched the Countryside Climate Network to promote the voice of the countryside in the climate change debate. This cross-party group of 21 councils has been established by UK100, a network of local leadersthat campaigns on climate change. The 21 councils represent 14.3 million people in total, a quarter of the population (25%) and two fifths (41%) of England by area.

As part of the network’s launch they published an open letter warning that “rural communities are at the front line of feeling the effects of climate change” and that “the countryside offers far more than a place to plant millions of trees to offset carbon emissions.”

Agriculture, land use and peatlands account for 12% of overall UK emissions, while agriculture is responsible for 88% of ammonia gas emissions which combine with other pollutants to form fine Particulate Matter (PM) air pollution, which is harmful to health. At the same time, rural areas are home to many of the potential solutions to climate change.

The group aims “to ensure that the voice of rural knowledge and experience on climate action is listened to in Westminster” and its new Chair, the leader of Cambridgeshire warns that rural areas face “unfair barriers to decarbonise” including lower budgets and funding rules which favor urban concentrations… The group wants the Government’s delayed £100bn infrastructure fund “to support the ambitions of rural areas and the opportunities our countryside and green infrastructure can provide”.

The group is chaired by the Conservative leader of Cambridgeshire Council, Cllr Steve Count, who said:

“From Cornwall to County Durham we have decided to take a stand. We’re frustrated that climate solutions and green recovery packages haven’t found the right balance, largely missing the rural voice.

“It can be hard to meet our sustainable ambitions when urban areas have no need to fund essential bus services to remote communities or invest in broadband because the market doesn’t reach isolated areas. These examples of typical rural disadvantages add up, combined with a funding gap in rural areas twice that of our urban counterparts, means our stretched resources are diminished making the challenge of funding sustainable solutions even harder”.

“We need a green recovery that works for the two thirds that live outside urban cities and towns”.

Polly Billington, Director of UK100, said: “Climate change affects every area and every person, and rural towns and villages can be more vulnerable to the impacts, such as extreme weather. Countryside councils are well placed to tackle climate change and meet the needs and ambitions of their communities for economic recovery and better health  and well being, with innovative solutions along with the democratic legitimacy to deliver lasting change.”

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