Because we live in a two tier local authority many of the services, such as Highways, Education and Social Care are dealt with by the much larger county Council. So, when it comes to taking real action against Climate Change, the Borough has limited scope for action.
On it's own, it can reduce its operational emissions (from buildings, transport and land use), can sequester carbon by planting trees and can use its powers over planning to ensure that new developments are climate resilient. In addition, it can use its position in public life, and its control of public space, to encourage residents and visitors to reduce their climate impact as well.
Unfortunately, the last decade has seen a massive assault on local authority spending so the challenge is to see how we can make a little go a long way. My modest suggestion is that we set about trying to kill two birds, a public health crisis and climate change, with one stone.
The public health crisis is one caused by low levels of physical activity (see "If it were a drug" and "The cost of sitting around in North Yorkshire"). Now, while many people associate physical activity with taking part in sport or going to the gym, it is now well established that the simplest way to address the problem is to make physical activity an integral part of everyday life. In short, this means walking or cycling for those short journeys where you might otherwise drive.
The evidence is that the best way to encourage people to walk or cycle is to improve the quality of the places they walk or cycle so that it becomes a high value way of getting around rather than the last choice when all other options have been exhausted.
Because the towns in the Borough (Whitby, Filey and Scarborough) are holiday destinations, we're lucky that we already have lots high quality public space. The challenge is to encourage us to make more use of them for everyday short journeys.
I'm often surprised by how many people make short journeys by car. Of course some of these are made by people with mobility problems, but for many it's just a cultural habit.
My simple suggestion to help break this habit is to publicly declare Filey, Whitby and Scarborough to be "Walking Towns".
This wouldn't be particularly expensive but, by explicitly linking it to measures that encourage people to walk, some of which, like the provision of temporary toilets on the Marine Drive, are already in place, the Borough can, in this small way, be publicly seen to be responding to both the Climate Emergency and the public health crisis of physical inactivity (as well as reducing pollution from motor vehicles). All we'd need is a public declaration and a good logo to go with it.
Many of you will know that over the years I've taken a keen interest in improving the quality of the Cinder Track and the associated parks and play areas. The recent announcement of a successful bid to the Department for Transport by Sustrans and the Borough means that by 2021 the urban sections of the Track should be much improved. These are just the places where people can use the Track for everyday journeys and it will be interesting to see how much latent demand is released once the work is done.
I can often be found walking or cycling around the town, finding different routes between places and taking pleasure in seeing other people enjoy them too. In particular, I love seeing families make their way along the Cinder Track, or down through Peasholm Park, chatting and exploring as they go without being disturbed by either the noise or fumes from traffic and with children able to roam free without fear of getting run over. Improving public space improves the life of everyone.