So COVID is still here. And I know because I’ve got it. It just shows how easy it is to pick it up and how worryingly widespread it remains.
I am afraid my wife tested positive as well, although thankfully she has no symptoms. I am just glad that we have had all our vaccinations (both COVID and flu). I have to say that before I completed my test, I thought my little cough and feeling of tiredness was just part of my annual cold. I am now in my 10 days isolation.
I join the borough’s Director of Public Health in urging everyone to get their booster jabs as soon as they can, if they’re eligible, to get maximum protection against the virus. This vaccination programme has been really successful in cutting down the effects of COVID and I now know the difference it can make.
There’s a walk-in clinic in Mell Square this weekend for those eligible – so grab your COVID-19 booster jab on either Saturday 6 or Sunday 7 November, from 9am until 4:30pm - no appointment is needed.
The real lesson here is to keep testing and try hard not to give it to others unwittingly. I remain a fan of mask wearing and I keep a distance from others wherever I can. Coughs and sneezes spread diseases…
COP26 continues to lead the headlines. The focus on finance in Tuesday’s session was vital: information on how the world will finance net zero carbon was missing from the Paris agreement. These are early days, but at least world leaders, and now the finance industry, recognise the importance of shifting priorities and investment towards more sustainable outcomes.
Regionally, as I’ve mentioned before, we are well placed to be leaders of a green revolution with our history of engineering, innovation and commerce. The West Midlands has a crucial role to play and Solihull will play a vital part in this.
I know from my work in the Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership (GBSLEP) (as Net Zero Champion) that there is much going on. The Midlands Energy Hub is providing advice and support across the wider Midlands region to help businesses and local authorities become more energy efficient.
They help organisations to improve the energy efficiency of particular sites or buildings, or offer support to develop comprehensive energy strategies. This work, alongside better domestic insulation and energy solutions, will be important as we make the most of all the energy we produce and cut down on waste.
The latest episode my ‘Courts on Climate Change’ podcasts has a case in point. ZF, one of the world’s leading technology companies in the automotive sector, explains how they have radically changed the design and functioning of their new offices in Blythe Valley to create a net zero environment. They’ve even reduced canteen portions to reduce food waste, (although I am keeping very quiet at home about that one)!
Do take a listen, as it is heartening to hear how a company can take responsibility to put in place measures to tackle climate change, not only to save money - but because it’s the right thing to do. The podcasts are available on the Council website, Spotify or Apple Podcasts.
On a local level, we are working with schools and young people, the next generation of scientists, innovators and policy makers, to think of new ways to address the challenges we face now and in the future.
For example, the Solihull Schools Climate Conference, taking place on 11 November, will see a student-led version of the COP26 summit, giving our young people an insight into the issues and negotiations that currently occupy our front page. I have sat in on these events in previous years and not only are they instructive for our young people, letting them see different sides of an argument, but they also present a great opportunity for personal skill development, such as negotiating.
Later in the month our Business Champions will be presenting the annual Greener Solihull School Awards, again celebrating the efforts of pupils and their schools to look at their contribution to the green revolution. They do a great job, so thank you.
Retrofitting homes to make them warm and more energy efficient will be a key task for the coming decade, especially as this disproportionally affects lower-income households living in energy inefficient homes. In Solihull, we are supporting the Solihull Green Homes Grant, which can offer householders up to £10,000 for this work if they’re eligible.
And through ‘Planting our Future’, we have committed to planting 250,000 trees over the next 10 years to ensure Solihull remains the green and pleasant borough it is.
Finally, at the next Cabinet meeting, taking place during COP26, we will have our Net Zero Action Plan (NZAP) in front of us. This plan is a major step forward for the borough, but it isn’t the complete solution, merely the first in a number of steps towards developing a borough-wide, private and public sector approach to climate change action here in Solihull.
The NZAP is about how we deliver on our climate change ambitions, whilst helping maximise the ‘co-benefits’ from reducing CO2 emissions. These benefits could be wide-ranging for all of us - better air quality, improved natural environment, more comfortable homes, cost savings and new green jobs.
The plan will be regularly reviewed, as circumstances will inevitably change over the coming decade. We have consulted widely on the proposals and sought advice and guidance from stakeholders across the borough. I look forward to a robust discussion at next week’s cabinet, but I hope that colleagues across Council will support it.
Remember your best defence against COVID and flu is to:
- get vaccinated, including getting a booster.
- wear face coverings in crowded spaces, on public transport and in poorly ventilated spaces.
- use hybrid working wherever possible.
And hands, face, space works for COVID, flu and all the other winter viruses.
Councillor Ian Courts, Leader of Solihull Council