Climate change a top priority after COVID

Climate change has been rated by Essex residents as one of the most important priorities after the coronavirus crisis.

When asked what factors need improving in their local areas, 72 per cent of residents participating identified road and pavement repairs as a priority. While 50 per cent of those taking part thought dealing with traffic congestion should be a priority.

Most participants identified Covid-19 as the most important issue facing Essex today. But despite the immediate pressures of the pandemic, which a quarter said is the most important issue the county is currently facing, 18 per cent indicated that climate change and the local environment should be prioritised.

The county has been praised for much of the work it has started to undertake including the creation of a climate change action commission and its tree planting project. But it has also been criticised for other policies – including promoting new road building such as the A120.

James Abbott, green party councillor, said: “Climate change is very important and there are some good things the county council is doing  – the Essex forest initiative for example.

“There are some very bad things opposite to that including promoting enormous road building projects through open countryside.

“But in terms of local priorities it was interesting that despite the appalling pandemic and despite all that has happened, people still say their highest local priority are potholes.

“We are saying the county needs to get back to basics.

“It has been very poor in the level of services and there is a disconnect of what the county thinks it is doing and what those of us on the ground as local members see happening.

“Climate change mirrors the national picture. Climate change chimes in national polls of what people think is important.

“Part of this is being linked with other issues  – species habitat and countryside .

“People are seeing the damage being done through unsustainable development.”

Kevin Bentley, deputy leader of Essex County Council told a meeting of the full council last week: “We’ve had some very very bad weather.

“It is coming into better weather and you’ll see the state of our roads improving as time goes on as it happens every year.

“Of course we are in the period of winter which we’re just coming out of.”

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Piers Meyler

Local Democracy Reporter