22 June 2019
Despite the climate catastrophe now unfolding around us, and the very real possibility of the imminent collapse of our civilisation and environment, East Riding Conservatives this week denied there is a Climate Emergency by wrecking a motion to declare it.
A cross-party motion was brought to East Riding of Yorkshire Council (ERYC) to "Declare a Climate Emergency".
The motion resulted from work by groups including Hull & East Riding Green Party and Transition Bridlington, was proposed by Andy Walker of the Yorkshire Party, and was seconded by Linda Johnson, a Liberal-Democrat. (There are not yet any Greens on ERYC.)
It was supported by a petition with almost two thousand signatures, an incredibly high level of support for a local council motion.
The Motion was debated at the first Full Council meeting since the local elections on Wednesday 19th June.
Councils all over the UK of all colours, and even the UK national government (sort of), have now declared – 135 at the last count (listed here).
However, despite strong, well founded speeches by the Yorkshire Party and several Lib-Dem Councillors, the Conservative group chose not to accept the wording presented, and proposed a significant 'Amendment' of their own – that (as far as we can tell) completely deleted the all the original wording, and replaced it with some mild platitudes of their own, fobbing the issue off to a committee, and making no reference at all to any emergency.
In proposing the Amendment Cllr Chris Matthews (Con) claimed to agree with the intent of the original wording, but that it, "does not acknowledge the current position or work" and that the environment was "at the forefront" and "embedded in the culture" of East Riding Council, prompting sounds of derision from the public gallery. He said "the Declaration doesn't achieve anything", ignoring the fact that the motion specifies several specific actions. He said that Full Council was not the best place, a proper dialogue was necessary, and therefore it should be passed to the Overview and Scrutiny Committee to decide whether to make a declaration.
Perhaps bearing in mind that this could be the single most important issue of our time, as the very extinction of the human race is at stake if we don't make dramatic changes urgently, Cllr Denis Healey (LD) questioned that, saying that Full Council was absolutely the best place to debate such an important issue.
Cllr David Nolan (LD) said, "This is a wrecking amendment ... disgraceful", and that the motion was, "not beyond the stretch of the council, not beyond reasonable."
The Conservative Councillors, predominately ageing men (the demographic most likely to deny the severity of climate change, and be pro-fracking), are clearly in deep denial of the scale and urgency of change necessary for the survival of the human race, and of much life on earth. A revealing moment came when Cllr Linda Johnson (LD) spoke of the serious impact of food production, and simply stated that more of us will have to become vegan – causing the loudest response from the floor of the chamber. Was that derision? Would they rather risk letting the planet burn and condemn our children to a future of starvation, flooding and the inevitable ensuing warfare, than eat less meat and dairy?
Cllr Richard Burton, the new leader of the Council, said the amendment was about where we are now, that we have to be a team, and that a more considered approach was necessary.
In his right to reply Cllr Andy Walker concluded by quoting David Attenborough, "climate change is humanity's greatest threat in thousands of years" and with the undeniable fact that, "Business as usual will not do".
The Conservatives, with a large majority on ERYC, voted on mass for the amendment, and the original motion was trashed.
By Councillor Andy Walker
“That this Council notes:
In 2018, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned that we had just 12 years to make the necessary changes to limit a rise in global temperatures to 1.5c. Failure to act will see a marked increase in sea levels and flooding, extreme and abrupt changes to weather patterns, crop failures, extinction of plant, insect and animal species and global economic disruption and crisis.
At the Global Climate Talks in Poland last December, the UK along with over 200 nations agreed action on Climate Change with a much greater role strongly implied for Local and Regional Authorities like the East Riding of Yorkshire Council.
We therefore resolve to:
1. Declare a Climate Emergency and publicise this to the people of the East Riding of Yorkshire to raise awareness and support the public to take effective action.
2. Acknowledge that “business as usual” in the face of this emergency is not an option.
3. Request that Cabinet initiate a full environmental audit of the East Riding of Yorkshire Council to measure its carbon footprint, identify hotspots and commit to being carbon neutral by the year 2030.
4. To set up a Councillor Working Party including the appropriate Portfolio Holder with a remit to:
a. Commission and oversee the environmental audit.
b. Identify practical measures to reduce emissions and the Council’s carbon footprint.
c. Encourage action in the wider community, businesses and other key organisations e.g. NHS and educational institutions.
d. Report to Full Council within six months with an action plan to address the emergency and incorporating proposals on the investment implications of this proposed activity.
5. The Council to consider environmental impact as part of every new policy.
6. The Council to seek to collaborate with other local and regional Authorities on emission reduction projects.
7. The Leader of the Council to write to the Minister of State for Climate Change and Industry requesting that national policy is urgently developed to reflect the seriousness of the current emergency and to release funds to local Authorities that would allow them to take the necessary measures at local level.”
Published in the Agenda available here.
To move as an amendment: Councillor Matthews. To second: Councillor Stathers
That this Council:
Welcomes the latest Annual Environmental Management Statement (EMS) as approved by Cabinet on 11 June.
Recognises that the External Surveillance Audit carried out in January 2019 concluded that this EMS was effective and in line with the requirements of the ISO14001:2015 Standard and fully supports the ongoing work of the sustainable development team.
Welcomes and continues to work and collaborate with other local and regional authorities on carbon reduction projects and asks the Overview and Scrutiny Committee to monitor progress.
Instructs the Leader of the Council to write to the Minister of State for Climate Change and Industry, supporting the recently announced National Policy to commit to net zero greenhouse gases by 2050 and to request a release of funds to Local Authorities that could allow them to take the necessary measures at local level.
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