Essex council declares climate emergency
PUBLISHED: 21:21 19 July 2019 | UPDATED: 22:42 19 July 2019
Politicians in Colchester have pledged to "jumpstart a revolution" in an effort to tackle climate change on a local level.
Colchester Borough Council (CBC) has voted unanimously to declare a climate emergency - outlining a series of policies aimed at cutting waste, boosting biodiversity and making the town carbon neutral by 2030.
The motion, which was passed on Wednesday evening, said: "Tackling climate change cannot just be left to the national government. It is everyone's duty to do what they can to stop this existential threat to our planet and all those whose lives depend on it.
"We hope that, in passing this motion, we can jumpstart a revolution in the way we tackle climate change as a local authority."
CBC follows in the footsteps of Suffolk County Council, Woodbridge Town Council, Lowestoft Town Council, and dozens of others across the country - all of whom have declared a climate emergency at a local level.
As part of its plans to make the town more environmentally-friendly, the council has pledged to establish a dedicated Conservation and Environmental Sustainability Task and Finish group.
The group will have responsibility for commissioning an environmental audit and an urban impact assessment; developing a road map for CBC to go carbon neutral by 2030; and collaborating with other local authorities to reduce the council's emissions and carbon footprint.
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It will also establish a set of sustainability goals to be monitored on an ongoing basis.
Meanwhile, the council as a whole will pledge to ensure future development projects meet a carbon-neutral standard by 2029; aim to decarbonise energy in Colchester and help develop renewable energy projects; and request national policy is urgently developed to reflect the seriousness of the current emergency.
Members of the public, including Extinction Rebellion (XR), spoke during the 'Have Your Say' section of the debate on Wednesday night.
A local activist from XR said: "Based on current world climate agreements, we are headed for between three and seven degrees centigrade of warming within our children's lifetimes. Four degrees is considered to be catastrophic and irreversible - with water scarcity, large uninhabitable areas, significant loss of arable land and so on. We are sleepwalking into oblivion.
"Extinction Rebellion want governments at every level to acknowledge this crisis and respond with urgency.
"This is our only chance of mitigating the worst impacts of this crisis. Scientists say this can be done. The solutions are available to us. There is time. If we act now."
A peaceful "die-in" was staged by XR outside the town hall in support of the council's initiative.
Reacting to the unanimous vote, CBC councillor Lorcan Whitehead said: "Even just a year ago, I don't believe it would have been possible to pass such a motion. That it is now, and that every councillor who spoke last night accepted it as common sense, is a result of the growing climate of acceptance that everyone involved in XR and other actions have managed to create."