Across the UK yesterday voters go to the polls to elect the first six ‘Metro Mayors’ to take charge of some of the country’s largest city regions.
The Mayors, who together will create a new tier of political leadership in Britain, are being urged by green groups to harness their powers to make the UK’s city regions greener, cleaner environments to live and work in.
A joint call from green groups today – backed by the National Trust, Green Alliance, the Campaign to Protect Rural England, the Campaign for Better Transport and The Wildlife Trust – urges the new mayoral cohort to take “urgent actions” to curb the environmental impact of city regions.
“Devolution aims to unlock the potential of England’s cities, but metro mayors will be the key,” Green Alliance acting director Tamsin Cooper said in a statement.”Cities have to be resilient to climate change and grow their low carbon economies if they are to thrive and grow in the long term. The new metro mayors have an historic opportunity to use their new status to accelerate environmental action, creating sustainable city regions around the country.”
Metro Mayors are set to be elected in six regions today: Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, Greater Manchester, Liverpool City Region, Tees Valley, West Midlands and the West of England.
The mayors’ powers to deliver strategic plans and manage key budgets including transport, housing and the natural environment will be key to delivering greenhouse gas emission cuts and improvements in environmental sustainability across the UK, campaigners argue.
For example, the Metro Mayors will control a single transport budget for their region, which campaigners say should be used to invest in public transport, walking, cycling and electric vehicle infrastructure in order to cut carbon emissions and improve air quality.
Moreover, all the voting regions have areas of poor air quality in breach of legal limits set by the EU and reports this week have suggested the government is keen to devolve much of the responsibility for complying with the targets to local government as part of its imminent air quality plan.
Meanwhile, the new mayors are also being urged to invest more in public open spaces to improve wellbeing for citizens and boost natural habitats for wildlife.
“A healthy natural environment is the foundation of a thriving economy and a healthy society, with high quality, accessible wildlife-rich environments attracting investment and talent to a city,” Stephen Trotter, England director of The Wildlife Trust, said in a statement. “Making our cities greener and better places to live and work therefore has to be an urgent priority for the new mayors.”