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Statement given by the President of the Committee for the Environment & Infrastructure

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Wednesday 12 December 2018

General update

In this general update I would like to inform Members of progress in three main areas - firstly the Committee's contribution to the Priorities within the Policy & Resource Plan and secondly a more general update on the Committee's Activities, and finally concluding on a commentary on recent Climate Change published reports.

So turning to the P&R Plan, I am delighted that my Committee has been able to bring a policy letter on driving licences and vehicles post Brexit. Much credit must go to the staff at Traffic & Highway Services, Policy & Resources and St James for progressing this work in the tightest of timescales. We look forward to debating this Policy Letter later in this meeting.

I am pleased to report significant progress with taking forward the Energy Policy. At the start of the autumn my Committee held workshops over two days with key stakeholders in the energy market. We ran these as closed "select committee hearings" with strict time limits which encouraged focused discussion. We are planning to come back to the Assembly with a new Energy Policy in the first half of 2019 and this will allow us to move forward rapidly with the Hydrocarbons project and give direction to our aspirations for renewable energy.

Similarly we are beginning to make progress with the development of the Housing Strategy now that resources have been identified and allocated to the project. We are currently awaiting confirmation from P&R as to the start date for a dedicated policy officer but we have already formulated a clear outline of the work that is required within this programme. We intend to provide regular and clear updates on progress to Members and the public on this critically important workstream.

The Committee continues to support and play an active part in the development of the Seafront Enhancement Area proposals both through the political level steering group and staff level working group. You will all have noticed that significant public engagement has begun for the SEA, focussing initially on the six States'-owned sites identified as having potential for development. Whilst not classed as projects requiring consultation under the SEA, designs for the proposed resurfacing of North Plantation are progressing well and are due to commence, hopefully, in March, 2019.

 

The Committee has identified, as a priority in its Committee Policy Plan, the importance of developing a strategic approach across the States (and the wider Bailiwick where appropriate) which supports and embraces international requirements through a Maritime Strategy which complies with relevant international rules and regulations. Guernsey may be audited by the International Maritime Organisation no later than 2020 with a mock audit by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency in 2019.

Work is progressing well on the Maritime Strategy. A Common Port, Flag and Coastal Gap Analysis was submitted to the Maritime and Coastguard Agency in September this year and the Committee provides regular updates to the MCA who are monitoring the progress of each Red Ensign Group Administration on behalf of the UK Secretary of State. Work is continuing on the development of the Maritime Strategy document and the first draft of the high level document was also submitted to the MCA in September for comment. We are awaiting reply and feedback. That said, the Maritime Strategy, and particularly the legislative aspects of it, has also been affected by resources being diverted to Brexit.

There has been considerable interest in the development of the Island Long Term Infrastructure Investment Plan which has in fact been the subject of eight Rule 14 questions. Although the States prioritised this project through the P&R Plan, the request for funding was not met in the budget. We have written to P&R asking for assistance in this regard. However I would also like to take this opportunity to state The Island Long Term Infrastructure Investment Plan is a holistic infrastructure policy rather than a plan focussing on a specific element such as roads.

Finally with regards to the P&R Plan my Committee would like to congratulate members of the Health & Social Care Committee for the formal launch of the Health Improvement Commission as part of the Health and Well Being policy. The Commission will bring together many initiatives and my Committee is supporting the Commission through the provision of an annual grant of £50,000 to deliver the Active Travel elements of the Integrated Travel Strategy. We will be submitting a policy letter on the Integrated Transport Strategy early next year. We had hoped to submit it before the end of the year but this was not possible due to pressures arising from Brexit.

If I now turn to the second main area of this Statement, a general update on activities.

In my Statement in May I informed members that we were currently trialling a new technology with taxi drivers which was designed to reduce emissions and improve fuel efficiency. That trial is now complete and the results were encouraging. The vehicles within the trial saw emissions reduce by between 45% and 89% and fuel efficiency increase by between 7-14%. We would hope that taxi drivers will be seeking to invest in this equipment. Officers are working with Procurement within P&R to see how the States might also benefit from this technology and reduce the States general revenue expenditure whilst also reducing our emissions.

In February we will be laying the Statutory Instruments for the new 25 mph speed limits before this Assembly.

In October we had 212 Electric Vehicles on our roads and as of Monday this week, we had 272 now registered on the island - a 28% increase in two months.

We are also encouraged by the increasing numbers using the island's bus service. For January to October we have seen annual growth rates of over 6% since 2013. This is a phenomenally successful achievement which should be celebrated. We are anticipating breaking 1.8 million passenger journeys in a year for the first time ever, representing over 650,000 more than in 2013.

Traffic and Highways has been very busy in recent months improving our roads.

A number of significant road improvements have been made at La Vrangue. These much-needed enhancements include widening this busy road, adding two zebra crossings, lighting for the crossings, and extending a pavement to help pedestrians in the area. I am pleased that these have been well received by local residents.

To improve safety for people walking and riding bikes a Toucan crossing has been installed at the northern end of the cycle path along the sea front.

After more than a decade with gaps, St Julian's Avenue has been restored to its former tree-lined glory.

Pier Steps were rejuvenated ahead of the Christmas season after becoming very worn and slippery after decades of use. Work has also been carried out to restore grip to the worst areas of St James Street.

We have also been actively improving our roads for pedestrians by extending pavements such as ones by the L'Eree Bay Hotel and at the Vallette, and making numerous crossing points accessible for all. This excellent work will continue in 2019.

Work to implement the Biodiversity Strategy is progressing well and there have been a number of notable achievements this year.  These include developing partnerships with both local conservation organisations and the other Channel Islands to help deliver programmes of work at low cost. For example controlling and preventing invasive non-native species which harm our wildlife, delivering an education programme which uses the living environment as an outdoor classroom, engagement with the community to help manage important sites such as the Ramsar site of Herm, helping start the award winning Pollinator Project to support species under threat and working with Seasearch, a charity based citizen science project, to help get to know more about our precious marine habitats.  A Habitat Survey of Guernsey has also been completed which will be a valuable tool for policy and decision makers. We also have a strategy to control Asian Hornets which is a threat to our bees and our biodiversity.

A small investment in our island's living environment has yielded a large dividend. One such dividend is the establishment of a formal partnership with Imperial College which has seen post graduate students coming over to study at no cost to the taxpayer.  This is a model which can be developed since Guernsey is regarded as a fascinating and unique place to study in terms of its natural environment.

Finally I would like to address the issue of Climate Change.

Members will be aware of recent published reports such UN's Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change and the US government's report on Climate Change. Indeed Deputy de Lisle asked questions of me about the IPCC report at a recent meeting and I acknowledged that whilst there are policies in place to mitigate Climate Change, so far as one of the most affluent jurisdictions in the world our track record is poor.  The irony is not lost that as an island state we are at risk of Climate Change and we should be at the forefront of those seeking to prevent and mitigate climate change. 

Although the States has committed through various plans and strategies over the years to address the risks of climate change, the IPCC report makes it absolutely clear that we now have a very short window of opportunity - about ten to twelve years - to deliver on this commitments.

The Committee will now deliver its key policy priorities as set out in P&R Plan and the Committee's plans such as energy (decarbonisation of supply and renewables); sustainable and integrated transport (supporting a shift from the internal combustion engine vehicles towards active travel and electric vehicles); waste management and minimisation; sea defences and flood mitigation. What is noticeable however is that the P&R Plan is silent on climate change and makes no reference to the biggest challenge facing the modern world. This is clearly not acceptable and I would hope that we will be able to address this short-coming in the next review of the P&R Plan.

And in terms of aspirations and intent, I note with interest that in Gibraltar their environment department is called the Department of Environment and Climate Change. They clearly take their global and moral responsibilities seriously and I do wonder whether we need to follow suit in order to place a suitable emphasis on this most pressing threat to our economy and our way of life.

 

 

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