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Our house is on fire - Chelmsford acts on climate emergency

July 17, 2019 8:22 PM
Stephen Robinson and Rose Moore in front of a visual record of the Chelmsford meeting that declared a cliimate emergency

Stephen Robinson and Rose Moore in front of a visual record of the Chelmsford meeting that declared a climate emergency

A climate and ecology emergency has been declared in Chelmsford. This was voted through at a meeting of Chelmsford City Council last night (Tuesday 16 July). The move comes as a growing number of UK councils have formally recognised the urgent need to reduce global temperature increases if we are to avert major disaster.

Act as if our house is on fire - because it is

Lib Dem Cllr. Rose Moore proposed the motion, saying, "This is not a drill; we hear reports daily, hourly of the huge damage being done to our environment." Cllr Moore went on to quote from a speech by climate campaigner Greta Thunberg who said:

Adults keep saying: "We owe it to the young people to give them hope." But I don't want your hope. I don't want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act. I want you to act as you would in a crisis. I want you to act as if our house is on fire. Because it is."

Watch a video of the debate https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gLbTCtvtP4k&feature=youtu.be

Cllr. Stephen Robinson, Leader of the Council (Liberal Democrat), supported the motion, which was unanimously voted through. Alongside the declaration, he asked the Council to pledge to reduce its own carbon emissions to net zero by 2030, which was also approved together with a number of practical actions to achieve this (see below).

Councillor Robinson said, "The future of the world is in our hands, right now, and we all have a responsibility to act on these very real warnings. Of all the projected impacts of global warming, flooding is particularly likely to affect Chelmsford and a rise in sea level will have a huge effect on Essex as a coastal county.

"I used to regularly take my son to the coast at Maldon. His children will be unable to do that if polar ice caps melt - almost all of current Essex will be under water!

"This is not just a problem for national governments to deal with: local authorities like Chelmsford City Council have a duty to take local action, to protect the long-term wellbeing of our residents and to work with others. Residents can expect a number of practical measures and schemes to be announced this year to reduce emissions and protect the environment in our area."

In October 2018, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change published a 'Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C.' The report describes the enormous harm that a 2°C average rise in global temperatures is likely to cause, including heatwaves, flooding and the loss of most coral reefs. Currently, the world is headed for a 3-4°C rise.

However, the report also confirms that limiting global warming to 1.5°C would be enough to avoid or reduce this damage. The Panel stated that this is still possible, with ambitious action from national authorities, civil society and the private sector. In May, Parliament declared a climate emergency and the government has set a target of reducing the UK's carbon emissions to zero by 2050.

Chelmsford joins 115 other first- and second-tier councils who have passed Climate Emergency motions, 71 of which have also set a target date of net zero carbon by 2030.

Notice of Motion - Climate and Ecological Emergency

Chelmsford City Council notes:

  • That the impacts of climate breakdown are already causing critical 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;
  • That all governmental bodies (national, regional and local) have a duty to act, and local governments that recognise this should not wait for national governments to change their policies;
  • That bold policies to cut emissions also have associated health, wellbeing and economic benefits;
  • That a growing number of UK local authorities have already passed 'Climate Emergency' motions.

Council therefore resolves to:

  • Declare a 'Climate and Ecological Emergency' that requires urgent action to make the Council's activities net-zero carbon by 2030;
  • Achieve 100% low carbon energy across the Council's full range of functions by 2030;
  • Ensure that all strategic decisions, budgets and approaches to planning decisions are in line with a shift to net-zero carbon by 2030
  • Support and work with all other relevant agencies towards making the City of Chelmsford and surrounding area net-zero carbon within the same timescale;
  • Ensure that Officers and political leadership teams within Chelmsford City Council embed this work in all areas and take responsibility for reducing, as rapidly as possible, the carbon emissions resulting from the Council's own activities
  • Ensure that any recommendations are fully costed and that the Executive and Overview & Scrutiny bodies regularly review Council activities, taking account of production and consumption emissions, and produce an action plan within 12 months together with budget actions and a measured baseline.
  • Request that the Council's Overview & Scrutiny Committee considers the impact of Climate Change and the Environment when reviewing Council policies and strategies
  • Work with, influence and inspire partnerships across the city to help deliver this goal through all relevant strategies, plans and shared resources by developing a series of meetings, educational events for City Council staff and the wider community and partner workshops focusing on the Climate and Ecological Emergency
  • Request that the Council and its partners take steps to proactively include young people in the process, ensuring that they also have a voice in shaping the future;
  • Establish a Chelmsford Climate Change Partnership within the remit of the Chelmsford Policy Board, 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;
  • Establish a baseline for Chelmsford's ecological status and monitor progress year on year;
  • Report on the level of Council investment in the fossil-fuel industry and review the City Council's investment strategy to give due consideration to Climate Change impacts in their investment portfolio;
  • Ensure that all reports in preparation for the 2020/21 budget cycle and investment strategy note the actions the City Council will take to address this Emergency;
  • Call on the UK Government to provide such new powers and resources as are necessary to make this possible, and to work within the LGA to encourage other councils to back this plan.