The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about, and no one can accuse Bristol’s years as European Green Capital of that. It has polarised debate, with detractors jumping on the bandwagon to denigrate it as a waste of tax-payers money stereotyping those involved, and flailing around trying to find someone to blame. Supporters proudly celebrate it as the most impressive European Green Capital year in the award’s history. As is often the case, reality usually lies somewhere in between.
It is worth reminding ourselves that Bristol 2015 was a time-limited private sector company set up by the City Council to manage a programme of projects, grants and events in order to achieve the following aims (source: https://www.bristol2015.co.uk/about/organisation/):
- Local empowerment: to work with existing initiatives, networks and local communities to ensure that the value of sustainable living is delivered across Bristol’s neighbourhoods, businesses and the voluntary sector, resulting in attitude and behaviour change.
- International Reach: To build Bristol’s global profile as the UK’s most pioneering, sustainable city and region, to encourage exports, investment, tourism and economic growth.
- Sustainability leadership: For Bristol to become the leading forum for UK, European and global exchange in sustainability expertise, in the lead up to the 2015 UN Conference on Climate Change.
For the record, my own view is that in the run up to COP21, Bristol did become a leading city forum for sustainability leadership. (I feel I can comment on the basis that I cycled to Paris that November, and saw for myself Bristol’s role in the proceedings). Bristol’s profile was such that our city’s experts were being invited to just about every conference or debate on environmental issues world-wide, from China to the US (and continue to be). Bristol 2015 Ltd secured more money for community activity in 2015 than had been available in the previous 5 years combined.
Overall I give Bristol 2015 Ltd a solid 7/10; the dropped points are about diversity, transparency and the partnership working needed to create a legacy.
The imperative now is to create common ground on the understanding that unless we urgently alter our direction of travel, it is almost certain that Bristol, the UK and the world will fail to meet targets agreed at COP 21.
Looking back is an essential part of moving forward, but lessons learned are only as useful as the process of putting them into practice. The worst offence of all is not that we could have done things differently, but that we are in danger of losing sight of the real prize – a prosperous, low carbon city for all. I hope those seeking to score points can soon change their tune, and be more Yazz than Oasis.