Ely & District Progressives

Local people attempting to shake up local politics

District Council declare Climate Emergency … but

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At Thursday’s District Council meeting the Councillors voted to declare a climate emergency. That’s the good news.

The bad news is that the associated motion is so watered down it is unlikely to lead to any real action.

Importantly it fails to pledge to be carbon neutral by 2030, doesn’t allow for local residents to be involved and lacks any means to set targets or track progress.

The agenda for the meeting includes two motions relating to the climate emergency. 

The first motion, tabled by two LibDem councillors and titled Climate Emergency begins as follows:

Council notes:

that the impacts of climate breakdown are already causing serious damage around the world.

that the ‘Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C’, published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in October 2018, (a) describes the enormous harm that a 2°C average rise in global temperatures is likely to cause compared with a 1.5°C rise, and (b) confirms that limiting Global Warming to 1.5°C may still be possible with ambitious action from national and sub-national authorities, civil society and the private sector;

It includes a number of actions which start with:

Council therefore commits to:

Declare a ‘Climate Emergency’ that requires urgent action.

Make the Council, and its trading subsidiaries’ activities net-zero carbon by 2030

This motion is focussed on the climate emergency, and clearly states the council is committing to become carbon neutral by 2030. That is the date required to have any chance of keeping global temperatures below 1.5°C as recommended by the IPCC (as noted in the motion).

It also included a commitment to involve the wider community and allow them to drive the solutions and monitor progress via a Climate Change Partnership 

Establish an East Cambridgeshire Climate Change Partnership, involving councillors, residents, young people below voting age, academics and other relevant parties, to prioritise carbon reduction measures, identify related benefits to employment, health, agricultural and transport sectors and develop a strategy in line with the ‘net-zero carbon by 2030’ target;

This motion was not adopted after being voted down by the Conservative councillors.

The second motion, tabled by two Conservative councillors and titled Climate Change begins rather differently:

The current generation has a duty to protect and improve the health of our planet for those that follow.

The world is facing unprecedented challenges in population growth, climate change, pollution and ever increasing and competing demands on its land and natural resources. By 2050 the world population is expected to rise from its current level of 7.7 billion to 9.2 billion. There is global consensus that climate change poses significant risk to the health of the planet and its ability to sustain life.

There’s a few points to make here.

  • Note that the weaker phrase climate change is used instead of climate emergency, this is important as the point of the declaration is to impress urgent nature of what’s happening and the response required.
  • The IPCC report isn’t mentioned at all, despite it being the authoritative source of evidence on the climate.
  • Population growth and pollution are combined into the motion taking the focus away from the climate emergency. 
  • Global population growth obviously has an affect on the climate emergency, but the levels envisaged within the district, which is what is being considered here, isn’t a major factor. 
  • Dealing with pollution, although an important issue, will not help tackle the climate emergency. Adding these additional issues is unnecessary and distracts from actually dealing with the climate emergency. 

The second motion then lists activities the council is already undertaking. This list starts with a review of bus services, which the district council isn’t responsible for. It then mentions a planned cycle network it hasn’t published any information about beyond a mention on an election leaflet. It continues listing things which are mostly unrelated to tackling climate emergency, except installing a couple of electric charging points and replacing light bulbs with LED ones. The inclusion of this list gives the impression the council is already doing a lot to tackle the climate emergency when in fact it’s  doing virtually nothing.

Finally the second motion states what the council is going to actually do, staring with

Council therefore resolves to:

Note the positive actions and work that have already been completed or begun

Commit to the following actions, to begin immediately:

  • Launch and publicise an online ‘Ideas Forum’ for residents to submit their ideas for consideration on how the Council can tackle climate change
  • Develop a Supplementary Planning Document for the Natural Environment
  • Conduct a review of the management, use of pesticides and the grass cutting schedule of our own open spaces and develop a Parks and Open Spaces Eco Plan to reduce adverse environmental impacts and increase biodiversity
  • Request East Cambs Trading Company to consider if and how the Parks and Open Spaces Eco Plan can be applied to customers of the Company
  • Promote tree schemes by the Woodland Trust and other organisations to encourage tree planting throughout the District

Notice there is no declaration of a climate emergency and no commitment to become carbon neutral by 2030.

The closest the motion gets to committing to being carbon neutral is the following:

Task the Operational Services Committee to develop a costed Environment and Climate Change Strategy and Action Plan, including targets and timescales to reduce carbon emissions and pollution and protect and enhance biodiversity and present to Committee within 6 months; as part of this work, Committee will explore and consider the following, which is not an exhaustive list:

  • Measures required and feasibility of reaching net zero carbon emissions by the Council by 2050

So, that’s ask a committee to come up with a costed plan that includes measures needed to become carbon neutral by 2050. No commitment to undertake the required measures which will be 20 years too late.

Also missing is a proper commitment to involve the wider community instead of a Climate Change Partnership there’s an online ‘Ideas Forum’ where residents can submit ideas, but no commitment to even look at, let alone act on them.

This watered down, confused and lack lustre motion is the one that got adopted.

But wait … what about the headline grabbing climate emergency declaration? 

Well, it seems it was added at the last minute because of a well supported local petition and a large public presence at the meeting demanding the declaration. If you signed the petition and/or were present at the meeting, well done!

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This entry was posted on October 23, 2019 by in Uncategorized.