State of climate emergency declared in North Herts

North Herts District Council declared a state of climate emergency at its annual full council meeting last week, following speeches from Extinction Rebellion North Herts and a Green Party member.

The first meeting held under new administration saw councillors vote through the motion to declare a state of climate emergency, something the government did earlier this month.

Anni Sander from the Green Party said at the meeting: "The Labour Party started a motion earlier this year to declare a climate emergency, which would have meant an increased pressure on the council to implement actions to mitigate climate change.

"However, the council decided to cancel the April meeting, during which the motion was scheduled, for "lack of business".

"We were amazed by that decision to cancel, because there is no more pressing business than dealing with climate change. Be in no doubt, we face a climate catastrophe."

The group started a petition last month to gain support for the motion and has gathered more than 500 signatures so far.

"There's no time to lose," Anni added.

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"Some people said to us while we were collecting signatures "what can a council do to fight climate change?"

"Well, there are thousands of actions you can take. I know that your officers have done some good work, but this needs to become your top priority."

This was followed by a statement from Extinction Rebellion North Herts co-ordinator Gilly Chegwyn, who said: "So where do you as councillors fit in this scenario? You have a social contract with us citizens.

"You have a responsibility to act in a way that protects us and we have a responsibility to support what you do and respect democracy.

"Government figures for CO2 emissions for 2016, broken down by district, show the figure for emissions in NHDC as 5.2 tonnes per annum, per person.

The carbon neutral target is 1.2 tonnes per head, per annum. This shows how big our task is."

Councillor Steve Jarvis, NHDC's executive member for environment and leisure, said: "With the recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report highlighting that we have just 12 years to act on climate change, the motion put before council to declare a climate emergency was very timely.

"As a district council, we are well placed to play a key role, not only reducing our own carbon footprint but enabling and encouraging residents and businesses across North Herts to do the same.

"The cross-party support for this important motion signifies a new and important shift in momentum locally, to ensure we do our bit to tackle this hugely important issue."

The motion was passed with 43 votes in support of it, and one abstention.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is the United Nations body for assessing the science related to climate change.

Its Global Warming of 1.5°C special report, published in October 2018, states that "human activities are estimated to have caused approximately 1.0°C of global warming above pre-industrial levels, with a likely range of 0.8°C to 1.2°C".

It adds: "Global warming is likely to reach 1.5°C between 2030 and 2052 if it continues at the current rate."

The report states warming caused by pollution generated by human activity from the pre-industrial period to the present "will persist for centuries to millennia and will continue to cause further long-term changes in the climate system, such as sea level rise, with associated impacts, but these emissions alone are unlikely to cause global warming of 1.5°C".

Following last week's meeting, Ms Chegwyn added: "There were several excellent supporting speeches from councillors of all political persuasions proving that this was a cross-party issue.

"Thanks and congratulations to NHDC for taking this brave step and joining other UK local councils who have already declared a climate emergency.

Extinction Rebellion North Herts will host a 'what's next?' workshop at Jackie's Drop-in centre in Letchworth on Sunday, following the council's motion to declare a state of climate emergency in the district, from 10am until 4pm.

The group also welcomes current Extinction Rebellion members to find out about climate change collapse, what the group has done so far and what is planned on June 6.

For more information on the group and upcoming events, search Extinction Rebellion North Herts on Facebook.