Climate adviser says villagers should use torches instead of street lights in rural areas

·Freelance Writer
·3-min read
Local councils are being urged not to put street lights in rural areas where people could use a torch. (Getty)
Local councils are being urged not to put street lights in rural areas where people could use a torch. (Getty)

Councils have been urged to encourage villagers to use torches rather than rely on street lights in an effort to tackle climate change.

Lord Deben said local authorities must think about everything they do through the prism of climate change, such as not building in areas where everyone would have to commute by car, or saving energy by not installing lights.

Councils “must be looking at everything they do, their waste collection, road building, so they are thinking all the time, ‘what is the climate change issue here, what do we have to do to make our contribution to net zero'”, he said.

Giving evidence to Parliament’s Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee (HCLG), Lord Deben, chairman of the independent advisory Climate Change Committee, warned: “The pressures to urbanise the countryside are largely antagonistic to dealing with climate change.”

John Selwyn Gummer, Baron Deben at a service of thanksgiving for the life and work of former foreign secretary Lord Carrington at Westminster Abbey in London. (Photo by Stefan Rousseau/PA Images via Getty Images)
Lord Deben said local authorities must think about everything they do through the prism of climate change. (Getty)

He said street lighting in rural areas is unnecessary, adding: “When people move into the countryside you just have to say to them, ‘this is not the town, we do not have street lighting in this village, you have a torch, that’s just how we do it’.”

But street lighting is important in towns where it can make people feel safer and more likely to walk, he added.

Watch: Britain already experiencing the effect of climate change

Lord Deben also told the committee it is nonsense to allow the building of hundreds of homes in a village where most people commute to work by car, urging councils to focus on building in cities or towns, or near railway stations.

“You’ve got to plan your future around hubs so that people can get to work on their feet or a bicycle, not by car.”

He criticised the government for abandoning plans for zero carbon homes in 2017 which means more than a million properties built since then will have to be retrofitted to make them green enough to meet climate targets.

Lord Deben told the committee that central government must work in partnership with local authorities to deliver on the UK’s targets to cut emissions to zero overall by 2050, or the goals will not be met.

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 04:  Prime minister Boris Johnson attends the launch of the UK-hosted COP26 UN Climate Summit, being held in partnership with Italy this autumn in Glasgow, at the Science Museum on February 4, 2020 in London, England. Johnson will reiterate the government's commitment to net zero by the 2050 target and call for international action to achieve global net zero emissions. The PM is also expected to announce plans to bring forward the current target date for ending new petrol and diesel vehicle sales in the UK from 2040 to 2035, including hybrid vehicles for the first time. (Photo by Jeremy Selwyn - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
The government has committed to cut net emissions in the UK to zero by 2050. (Getty)

He said people have greater confidence in local authorities to deliver schemes such as retrofitting homes with energy efficiency measures, and councils know their areas, but he added that they need more information to make decisions, and called for a new planning act to reflect the country’s climate commitments.

He warned: “We’ve got to be radical and very direct because we don’t have any time.

“We need a planning act which fully represents the facts that we are signed up to net zero internationally and nationally, otherwise we’re not going to do it.”

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