Extinction Rebellion Bury St Edmunds lays 115 pairs of children's shoes outside West Suffolk Council HQ in call for action over air pollution
Climate change protestors laid 115 pairs of children's shoes outside a council's headquarters to encourage the authority to take action on air pollution.
Extinction Rebellion Bury St Edmunds placed the shoes, donated by neighbours, parents and teachers, outside West Suffolk House, in Western Way, today.
Each pair stood for 20 of the 2,300 deaths it says the British Heart Foundation has predicted in Suffolk over the next decade as a direct result of air pollution.
Protestors delivered a letter calling on the council to prioritise air pollution and the climate crisis as part of a 'green recovery' in the wake of the coronavirus crisis.
The protest was ahead of a cabinet meeting on Tuesday when a taskforce set up to help tackle the climate change emergency will outline a roadmap of environmentally friendly initiatives.
Jen Tooke-Marchant, of Extinction Rebellion Bury St Edmunds, said West Suffolk 'has some of the worst rates of asthma, and particularly emergency hospitalisations in under-20s, in the entirety of the East of England' for the condition.
"A report in January 2020 predicted 2,300 deaths in Suffolk over the next decade as a result of air pollution, and this was before the impact on those recovering from coronavirus became
apparent. Damaged lungs need clean air," she said.
"Many young people feel suffocated by fear of what is to come, and now with this pandemic maybe others will start to understand our fear for the future.
"This action highlights that, even whilst healing from the pandemic, we must move towards a green transition to prevent future crises which our children and young people will bear."
They are calling on West Suffolk Council to monitor emissions near 'hot spots' such as schools, colleges, hospitals and health centres, declare anti-idling zones for vulnerable locations and consider restricting vehicular access to streets with schools during peak hours.
It also wants the authority to work with everyday walking charity Living Streets and schools to encourage walking and cycling to school through a network of cycle paths through towns and villages.
Extinction Rebellion Bury St Edmunds will give the shoes to Suffolk Baby Bank or Shoe Aid.
A council spokesman said: "West Suffolk is a leading authority on tackling climate change and has been praised as such by Friends of the Earth.
"Air quality is already a priority for us which is why we are a leader in solar power both owning a solar farm ourselves and helping businesses switch over through our Solar For Business scheme.
"We monitor air pollution. One of the worst areas of pollution in West Suffolk had been at Great Barton, but work with Suffolk County Council has seen this addressed through the moving of a crossing point from a built-up area, allowing air pollutants to naturally disperse."
He pointed to the council's cross party task force, which has put forward a road map of 50 initiatives to be discussed by cabinet on Tuesday.
He added: "We know we can always do more but ask the group to look at what we are doing and proposing."
The cabinet will debate plans to achieve net zero greenhouse gas carbon emissions by 2030, a major change from the council's previous commitment of a 75 per cent reduction by 2050.
It includes measures to bring in a carbon budgeting approach to support the net zero ambition and councillors will look to add a biodiversity and environmental emergency to its climate change emergency.
The council says the taskforce has suggested a list of nearly 50 initial actions this year and a programme of initiatives to be considered for delivery in 2021/22 and beyond.
Measures for travel and transport include moving to alternative fuels, route optimisation for waste vehicles and installing more EV charging points.
It would look to increase anti-idling signage in hotspot areas, continue to undertake anti-idling educational sessions within schools, and work with civil enforcement officers in enforcing and issuing fixed penalty notices.
It would also support a Suffolk-wide air quality monitoring pilot to find opportunities to improve air quality in hotspot areas.
This year it has planted 1,500 trees and plants, 1,000 of those since Christmas, and since 2010, greenhouse gas emissions have fallen by 30 per cent.
The council owns one of the largest local authority solar farms in the UK.
Cllr John Griffiths, leader of West Suffolk Council, said: “I would like to thank the taskforce which was one of the first initiatives I set up when West Suffolk Council was formed last year.
"We already have a strong track record on reducing our impact on the climate which has seen real and positive results and made us a national leader in areas such as energy from solar; and even during lockdown carried on with initiatives such as planting 1,000 trees.
"But we want to do more, and I look forward to discussing this report and the road map it sets out with cabinet and the suggestions that have come forward from this cross party council group.
"West Suffolk is a special place and we will continue to do our bit with others to tackle climate change while protecting and improving our environment and biodiversity.
"I would like to thank all councillors and officers who have worked on this."
A list of the council's longer term initiatives and the taskforce’s findings can be found here.
More by this authorPaul Derrick
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