IT IS a really exciting time for those with an interest in tackling the climate crisis – which I hope is all of us.

As a council we were among the first to declare a climate emergency, and both Labour and Green councillors were elected on a promise to bring our city to carbon net zero by 2030 to tackle this emergency head on. While in administration, we set up the city’s first climate assembly, which will give residents across the chance to have their say on how we reach carbon neutrality within the decade. While Covid-19 delayed the start of the assembly, invitations have now gone out and residents have responded. The first assembly meeting will take place virtually in the coming weeks.

The first topic our city’s climate assembly will discuss is transport. I’m pleased to see one initiative regarding transport already taking shape, as more volunteers are undergoing training for the new School Streets programme we worked with the Green Group to introduce. The programme will support safe and active travel back to the classroom for hundreds of children, which means temporary closures of roads close to school entrances during drop-off and pick-up times during term time. It will also create extra space at school gates to facilitate physical distancing. This is crucial as coronavirus still hasn’t gone away.

Our climate assembly will also look at energy and how we power our homes, offices and buildings around Brighton and Hove. There is currently a Sussex-wide scheme you can apply for which offers discounts on installing high-quality solar panels throughout September. Applying for this scheme gives you a chance to save on your energy bills, generate your own clean electricity and help cut carbon emissions. The Solar Together Partnership is a group-buying scheme that joins up local councils across Sussex and allows homeowners to purchase high-quality solar panels at competitive prices.

Installing solar panels across the city to generate clean electricity to power our homes would be a significant step towards carbon neutrality.

That’s why I’m proud that while in administration, we approved plans to retrofit solar panels on about 500 council homes across the city. This will help cut tenants’ fuel bills by up to £150 a year per household and reduce total carbon emissions by 300 tonnes a year. Solar panels installed on the roof of each home will be wired directly into the fuse box, giving tenants in the property free electricity whenever the panels are generating power.

If the household is using more electricity than being generated, additional power will come from the national grid and be paid for in the normal way. Any surplus electricity generated by the panels will be exported to the national grid. This is one of many achievements we made as a Labour council towards our carbon neutral target and from opposition we will be working constructively with the new Green administration.

I’m also pleased to see the Green administration continuing our work to clean up the city. A campaign is being launched called Keep Brighton and Hove Tidy, starting with a cleaning blitz on some of the city’s dirtiest streets and pavements. Cityclean staff will be taking jet washes to bins, benches, lamp posts and pavements, as well as painting over graffiti tags on council-owned buildings. As things stand, the council is not responsible for removing graffiti from private property. While in administration we ran a consultation on graffiti that was one of the most engaged with in some time. Residents clearly feel strongly about this issue, and one suggestion that went down well was for the council to charge private property owners for the service of graffiti removal. This is something we will be asking the Greens to consider and implement.

September marks Keep Britain Tidy month, so the timing of this campaign could not be better and I hope you will get involved. The council is asking communities to consider joining the clean-up effort, so please email if you’re interested in volunteering.

Even if everyone pitches in and helps cleaning up the city, it’s incumbent on all of us to keep it tidy. In administration, Labour installed hundreds of bins and recycle bins along the seafront and in our parks. Please use them or take your rubbish home.

Of course, all volunteering efforts around this will be in line with new government guidance, which limits meetings of people outdoors to six. Please do follow this new rule whatever you’re doing to help us keep Covid numbers down, keep our businesses open and to help our city bounce back from the public health crisis.