Exeter set for ‘profound changes’ post-covid

“Coronavirus has revealed structural weaknesses in the economy….”

“There will be more housing in the city centre, higher than we are used to, and at a greater density…..”

Is “build, build, build” GESP now just a bad dream and well and truly dead and buried? – Owl

Daniel Clark, local democracy reporter www.radioexe.co.uk 

Profound changes in everyone’s behaviour will be needed if Exeter has any chance to meeting an ambitious target to be carbon neutral by 2030.

As the city aims to build back better when the pandemic ends and tackle climate change, a warning has been issued that lives are going to change.

An event organised by a sustainability group called Exeter City Futures heard that that coronavirus has revealed structural weaknesses in the economy. Attendees explored how Exeter could build a vibrant economy as well as address the challenges of the pandemic and the climate emergency.

Through a process called ‘clean growth’, they aim to create high-value jobs, economic growth and an improved quality of life by cutting carbon emissions. 

Karime Hassan, CEO and growth director of Exeter City Council, said that the goal of net zero requires institutions in the city to pull together and to build a stronger city as part of a Net-Zero Exeter 2030 plan. He said: “It positions the city in terms of the issue of clean growth andt the city that we want to create which is more inclusive, sustainable, and healthy as a city, and we have to pull in the same direction.

Cllr Rachel Sutton (Labour), deputy leader and lead councillor for Net Zero Exeter 2030 at Exeter City Council, added: “This is a both exciting and terrifying time for everyone across the globe because as we were starting to get the head around the climate emergency. When we got overwhelmed by the pandemic, the climate emergency hasn’t gone away while we have been trying to get our heads around living in the pandemic.

“There will be more housing in the city centre, higher than we are used to, and at a greater density. When we build, it will be energy efficient and I hope others will follow and we intend to make sure people in council homes have houses fit for purpose.”

Glenn Woodcock, director of Oxygen House, the company behind Exeter City Futures, said that even before covid the area faced profound economic challenges. He said: “The multiple between people’s earnings and the cost of a house has gone beyond what we can tolerate in a modern economy but that being is exacerbated by covid. This is more than just a crisis in the atmosphere but a catastrophe in global warming in every one of the ecosystems and our ecologies.

“The pandemic, like a brutal and relentless hurricane, has stripped back to reveal the structural weaknesses in the economy, and we have to look at how we eat, clothe ourselves, entertain ourselves, our education, our healthcare from scratch.

“Clean growth is not returning to what we did yesterday – it doesn’t mean throwing it away but recognise we have to make some profound changes – but a place like Exeter is well placed to rise up to the challenges, and we can all do something about at least one of them.

“Our lives will change over the next 10 to 20 years and they have to, but this is not something to resist or be afraid of but that we have to embrace. Clean growth is giving power to the elbows of the people here to inspire people to follow in their footsteps, and to bring as much energy and excitement to the challenges as we can.

”Kalkidan Legesse, owner of Exeter sustainable fashion shop Sancho’s, said there is huge demand for change in the city but there needs to be support for businesses to engage in the digitised economy. “But we cannot take a one size fits all approach and when we are imagining the clean jobs, who are we imagining them for? One of the reasons we don’t see more progress in the green economy is that it doesn’t serve everyone’s interest, so do we understand what the opposing fortunes are and how can we address them?”