Poverty and climate are key to budget plans - Sam Gardner and Jim McCormick
As the chairs of the city’s respective Climate and Poverty Commissions, we’re calling for budget decisions to be aligned to ongoing commitments to end poverty and tackle climate change.
First, Edinburgh’s emissions must be reduced to meet its commitment of net zero by 2030. 40% of the city’s carbon emissions currently come from either industry or the public and commercial sectors. This needs to change significantly and quickly if we are to meet climate targets.
This means making changes to the way organisations operate - improving building performance, changing travel and work patterns and releasing and repurposing land in Edinburgh to improve spaces for living and recreation.
It also means making investments in infrastructure and services which ensure a substantial reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and stimulate opportunities for a greener economy and healthier city.
Second, we know that Covid-19 has worsened existing social and economic hardships for people.
Even pre-pandemic, an estimated 80,000 people in Edinburgh (mostly in low-paid and insecure work) were living in poverty. These conditions are getting worse. An estimated 4500 more people will fall into poverty this year unless we take significant steps to prevent it. Amid this crisis, funding must be allocated to help maximise incomes and provide people-centred support, including routes into good work, avoiding evictions and preventing homelessness.
At a UK government level, plans to cut the £20 uplift to Universal Credit and refreeze Local Housing Allowance rates would have a devastating impact for many people. This risk must be averted.
There are also longer-term investment decisions currently being made. It is vital these too result in infrastructure and services fully fit to reduce emissions, increase opportunity for those most in need and focus on earlier prevention of harm.
By making the right investment decisions now, organisations as well as society will reap the rewards in the future. This is the time to present a budget for the emergencies we face. We need to be bold in our commitments if we are to turn the dial on poverty and climate change. We need to invest now, to save in the future.
Tackling the climate emergency and reducing poverty are two issues which should be viewed in tandem. The scale of the challenge for planning and long-term budgets needs to be recognised openly and honestly.
The Climate and Poverty Commissions are encouraged by Edinburgh Council’s response to our reports. However, actions speak louder than words and these require investment and support.
Budgets need to focus on the wellbeing of citizens and communities, supporting a net zero future business and the economy. Now is the time to be bold and look to a better future ahead with ambition and purpose.