This week saw the latest manifesto U-turn from the current administration as it reintroduced glyphosate to the city’s biosphere, despite a pledge not to in May 2023, writes Green councillor Steve Davis.

In 2019, while in administration, Labour banned the chemical with immediate effect. In opposition, Greens supported this but, alongside Pesticide Action UK (PAN UK), encouraged Labour councillors to follow best practice when phasing out the chemical in the city. This usually includes a three-year phase out. Unfortunately, as Greens found out in 2020 when that Labour administration collapsed, there was no plan.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a branch of the World Health Organisation, classified glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic to humans” in 2015. This classification was based on extensive research linking glyphosate exposure to an increased risk of non-Hodgkin lymphoma and other forms of cancer.

Glyphosate can be toxic to wildlife including bees and destroys areas that wildlife - including birds, insects, bees and hedgehogs - rely on for food and shelter. Pesticides also run off hard surfaces such as pavements, thereby contaminating water courses and harming aquatic life.

Another emerging issue, highlighted by the National Farmers Union, is the phenomenon of herbicide resistance. Prolonged and widespread use of glyphosate has resulted in the evolution of glyphosate-resistant weeds, rendering the herbicide less effective over time. This means the more we use, the less effective it may become in time. Labour have said this is a temporary return but have also described glyphosate as “the only option”. Only time will tell.

This local issue really matters, far beyond the boundaries of Brighton and Hove. We are in a nature and biodiversity crisis, highlighted this week by four leading nature charities sounding the alarm as a staggering one in six species in the UK face extinction, saying green policies must pay a major role in the next general election

It does feel as though Labour and the Tories are yet to really grasp the danger of the emergency we are in and why every local action really matters.

Just this week, sadly, we saw a beautiful and carefully managed butterfly wildflower meadow, which has been looked after by residents in Coldean for eight years, mowed away – not for the first time in recent months and apparently on one occasion at the request of a local Labour councillor.

I’m proud to say Greens, at all levels of government, are fighting for nature every day but we need all parties to work together on this, the scale of the challenge is far bigger than our political differences.

Alongside councillors, Caroline Lucas and Sian Berry have been pushing for action here in Brighton and Hove.

In addition to her local work in Patcham on water quality and sewage releases, Sian has been attending community meetings on glyphosate’s reintroduction, joining with other residents to challenge Labour on this broken pledge. As well as calling for a formal street opt-out scheme at the recent Hanover and Elm Grove Communities Forum Meeting, Sian pushed for greater transparency from Labour on areas that will be excluded from the treatment, including areas of special natural interest and clearer information on how residents can report issues once the work starts

Passionate campaigning from residents, backed by Greens, has already seen Labour scale the treatment back from a blanket application on all visible plants, to now excluding flowering wildflowers.

On Tuesday, alongside PAN UK, Caroline Lucas spoke at the parliamentary launch of a new national campaign for a nationwide ban on the use of pesticides in towns and cities. She has also tabled an Early Day Motion calling for legislation to be introduced to implement a national phase-out of all pesticide use in public areas under local authority control as has been done in France and Luxembourg. This has gained cross party support and commends the more than 100 local authorities across the UK that have either ended their use of pesticides or taken significant steps towards doing so despite limited funds and resources - sadly Brighton and Hove is no longer one of them.

Whether it’s in our local council, or Parliament, we only have six years to meet our national targets for nature. We need to start seeing more focus from Labour and Conservatives on the crisis nature is facing. Our city has always wanted bold action to protect the environment - the seven and a half thousand signatures opposing the glyphosate reintroduction and residents reaction to the sewage scandal make that clear - but Labour and the Tories need to have a mindset change on what our relationship with nature is. We are part of our natural world, not separate from it. And we have to give nature every single chance we can to recover and eventually thrive once again.

Steve Davis is the leader of the Greens on Brighton and Hove City Council