By Anila Baig

FOR our series on Bradford Vision 2040 we are looking at a number of key areas which will impact the district in the upcoming decades and today we look at one topic which is currently dominating global headlines: the environment, climate change and sustainability.

As the world’s population hurtles towards nine billion in the next 20 years what does this mean for the future of our planet and how will we cope at grassroots level in the Bradford district?

Some early impacts of climate change are already being felt here in dramatic fashion. Around the world, meteorological records are being broken and what were once extreme events are starting to become more frequent.

Parts of Yorkshire suffered from the effects of extremely heavy rainfall during storms this winter and, according to experts, this flooding has become more likely because of climate change: warmer air moving over warmer oceans, thus carrying more water to deposit as rain. The result has been billions of pounds’ worth of damage and even loss of life.

It is clear we have to act now and one local expert believes a collaborative approach is absolutely vital.

Dr Stewart Davies has extensive experience in the fields of innovation and environmental sustainability combined with his passion for leading businesses.

He gained a first class degree in Physics and then a PhD in Materials Science at the University of Cambridge before pursuing a business career starting at ICI. Alongside this, he has worked in advisory roles with Whitehall for 14 years on the Sustainable Development Commission, the governing board of Innovate UK, the Innovation Advisory Board of the Natural Environment Research Council and as Chairman of the Environmental Services Association.

Dr Davies said: “After graduating I worked in businesses including petrochemicals, steel and cement which are essential for modern life but have big environmental impacts.

“My interest is two fold, firstly as a thinking, feeling human being you want to know what effect we are having on the environment we live in and care about; and secondly it’s strategic, what is the sensible approach as these impacts are better understood?”

He said there were three key areas that should be focused on.

“We have the climate emergency which is the most urgent global challenge; the rising pollution levels which are affecting the health and well-being of so many people and ecosystems; and then resource scarcity which will have a major impact on the supply chains we all depend upon.”

Dr Davies thinks a new approach is needed to manage our precious resources.

“As scientists we are constantly learning how the impact of human activity results in irreversible changes across our planet. Now we need to think long-term and act with urgency.

“We need to look at how best to manage the resources we do have in the way we consume and produce energy and products.”

Collaboration is the key and here in Bradford we have the opportunity to make a difference.

“When we work together we can find ways to mitigate these impacts, whether it is through more joined-up recycling efforts, reducing carbon emissions from energy used in vehicles and homes, making our businesses more resource efficient and our environment cleaner.

“I am really banging the drum for business, local authorities, education and civic society to work together on sustainable development. We call it the ‘coalition of the willing'.”

He said moves were already being made to tackle these concerns.

“Nationally we are seeing policy commitments that sales of diesel and petrol vehicles and even hybrids will be phased out. How can we go faster to improve air quality in Bradford?

“We need to see more integrated transport, for example HS3 needs to link Bradford city centre, connecting people and jobs whilst taking traffic off the roads.

“The electricity we use is progressively coming from more efficient and renewable sources, and we have local options to be part of this and provide low carbon energy for heating and transport.”

As well as reducing carbon emissions, creating cleaner air and cutting pollution, Dr Davies said there will be business opportunities for Bradford to reinvent itself as a green economy manufacturing hub.

“Given plans to phase out diesel and petrol in favour of electric and hydrogen fuelled vehicles, there could be options for Bradford to manufacture bespoke light vehicles, taxis and cars. Also, the UK is short of capacity to use recycled materials in new products: this should be examined as an area of opportunity for local investment and jobs.”

With 17-year-old Greta Thunberg creating headlines for her impassioned plea to save the planet for future generations, Dr Davies believes we need to engage locally with children and young people on Bradford Vision 2040.

“Children who are ten now will, in 2040 be 30; they will have been through education, have some work and life experience, be thinking about settling down and having families.

“We need to listen to and be informed by their passion now as we form the plans for Bradford that will shape their future environment and opportunities, and those of their children.

“We want to engage them on a positive journey where the future is less vulnerable and the new, green economy has more opportunity for all: we can do this if we all work together.”