Suffolk county councillors vote to declare a 'climate emergency'
PUBLISHED: 07:30 22 March 2019 | UPDATED: 08:32 22 March 2019
Overwhelming agreement to work towards cutting greenhouse gas emissions with the aim of the council becoming carbon neutral by 2030.
The landmark decision came following a discussion of the issue at a meeting of the full council yesterday. The motion had originally been tabled by Green Party councillors Elfrede Brambley-Crawshaw and Robert Lindsay, who agreed some amendments before the session. Putting aside party political differences, 60 councillors voted in favour with a single vote against and one abstention.
Councillors also agreed to form a cross-party panel tasked with coming up with policy ideas to help the authority cut emissions.
Cabinet Member for Environment and Public Protection, councillor Richard Rout, had been instrumental in getting cross-party consensus and there was an air of agreement during the debate with several councillors emphasising the need for respect of different opinions on this complex issue.
Mr Rout listed some of the council’s achievements in reducing carbon emissions so far including help for householders to make their homes more energy efficient and the Solar Together solar panel group buying scheme, but acknowledged “we can do more.”
“The decisions we make today will define our legacy,” he added.
Suffolk Council isn’t the first local authority in the UK to declare a climate emergency - county councils that have already done so include those in Somerset and Durham - and Mr Lindsay reminded the chamber that this is “just the start”.
But he said there was an opportunity for the council in going greener.
He said: “Several councils such as the Conservative controlled West Sussex County Council are already generating extra income streams and making savings on energy bills through building solar farms, building storage for the energy and selling that to the grid. Warrington Borough Council is planning to invest £64m into its own solar and energy storage in order to generate £130m over 30 years in revenue and to save up to £2m on its energy bills.”
Prior to the meeting, there had been a peaceful demonstration outside the council offices in Ipswich, where people, including a number of children, spoke about the need for action to tackle climate change.
Speaking to the EADT before the council met, Ms Brambley-Crawshaw said: “I think something has changed in the past six months- seeing the schoolchildren striking, seeing people actively talking about climate change in a different way. It’s being taken seriously in a different way and that is really heartening, and I hope that is what we are seeing today at Suffolk County Council.
“A lot things have been happening around the edges with small groups but it [action] needs to be strategic and cohesive.”
Asked what a decision in favour of the motion might mean, she added; “The council will have to change radically - at the moment much of the emphasis is on growth in a unsustainable way and what we are asking is that when we have growth it is environmentally sound and sustainable
“That will change policy considerably at Suffolk County Council and there will be challenges and disagreements ahead about how this can be achieved.”