Climate emergency declared in Stevenage
PUBLISHED: 12:13 14 June 2019 | UPDATED: 14:07 14 June 2019
Stevenage Borough Council has become the latest authority to declare a climate emergency, committing to a package of measures designed to cut carbon emissions.
With a full public gallery, an extraordinary meeting of Stevenage Borough Council on Wednesday committed to reduce emissions from council buildings and its fleet - and to support residents to cut their own emissions, too.
Councillors agreed to set up a Climate Change Charter - calling on residents, organisations and businesses to draw up plans to reduce their carbon emissions.
And they agreed to set up a Stevenage People's Assembly to monitor the town's 'climate emergency actions' against set targets.
Proposing the motion, Labour councillor John Gardner - executive member for environment and regeneration - said the problem had been ignored for too long by humankind and action could be delayed no longer.
He highlighted the role played by climate change campaigners Extinction Rebellion and schoolchildren in highlighting the issue - and that this was an opportunity to say, "we have heard them".
He added there was an opportunity for Stevenage to build its place in green industries - pointing to existing council schemes that include e-bikes, e-cars, a green travel plan and a new transport plan.
Councillor Gardener said: "By taking action together we can help save the planet we share. The 'climate generation' have called for action and I say we must answer that call."
Members of the public were also allowed to contribute to the meeting, beginning with 12-year old school pupil Aelie Manning who told councillors there needed to be more trees and greater encouragement to cycle.
Others pointed to the importance of the network of cycle paths running around Stevenage, and ideas such as bike clubs for schools, generation of electricity from cars and solar street lights.
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Extinction Rebellion member Amanda King told councillors the motion was not ambitious enough, that it needed to be braver and more creative.
And she suggested to the meeting that there was a need to reach zero carbon emissions more quickly.
Councillor Robin Parker, leader of the Stevenage Liberal Democrats, said it was right for the borough council and other local authorities to try to make real change, but admitted he was sceptical anything could be done by 2030.
Councillor Parker successfully added an amendment to the motion calling on the government to develop and support carbon capture and storage.
The motion also called on the government, industry and regulators to take action and make changes, in a drive to reach net zero carbon in the UK by 2030.
These actions include investment in clean, efficient renewable energy, investment in energy-efficient public transport and a strategy for all UK businesses to be carbon neutral by 2030.
It also included an end to the sale of petrol and diesel cars by 2030, a long-term Warm Homes strategy, a sustainable food revolution and a ban on fracking.
An amendment by Conservative councillor Graham Lawrence - calling for the ban on fracking to be removed from the motion - was rejected by the Labour-controlled council.
According to the motion, government figures show that emissions in Stevenage fell by 34 per cent between 2005 and 2016.
But to maintain the current rate of emissions reduction - and to reach zero carbon by 2050 - it says changes to national policy and infrastructure would be needed in all sectors.
Carbon dioxide emissions data from 2016 shows that in Stevenage 42 per cent comes from industry/commerce, 33 per cent from domestic sources and 25 per cent from transport.
Before the debate there were also presentations by Dr Sue Parham, head of urbanism and planning at the University of Hertfordshire, and by Jonathan Gilbert, technical consultant for BREEAM.