Last year the International Panel on Climate Change issued the stark warning that we have only 12 years to act to limit the catastrophic effects of climate change. We can't avoid the effects completely, because they are already happening. Since then we've seen little response from our government, but many local authorities have declared a climate emergency, passing motions many of which were proposed by Green Party councillors.
Up to now, neither Derbyshire County Council nor High Peak Borough Council have declared a climate emergency, though thanks to fantastic work by Transition New Mills and Sustainable Hayfield, New Mills Town Council and Hayfield Parish Council have. You can sign this petition calling on Derbyshire County Council to declare a climate emergency.
What does it mean for a council to declare a climate emergency? Is it just a symbolic gesture?
At the least, climate emergency motions commit councils to put their own house in order, ensuring that they are reducing their carbon footprint in their own operations (for example, in council buildings and council vehicles). But councils have responsibility for many of areas where positive actions can be taken to reduce the effect of climate change. For example:
Requiring a high standard of energy efficiency for any new builds that are given planning permission
Providing funding and advice on retrofitting existing housing would make a big impact.
Ensuring that public transport uses clean energy sources and is available and affordable
Providing safe routes for cyclists and pedestrians
Protecting and regenerating countryside areas that naturally absorb carbon, such as moorlands and wetlands.
Of course, all this costs money and over the last few years we have seen the budgets of local authorities cut to the bone. Cuts to local authorities must be reversed and additional money provided for actions on climate change. This week, Green Peer Jenny Jones spoke in the House of Lords about this issue and stressed that this cannot be put off and that money must be made available even if it does mean increasing public debt. Councils that have declared a climate emergency must unite, across party dividing lines, to press the government to release funds for this vital issue.
Green candidates, standing in the High Peak Borough Council elections on May 2nd are committed to declaring a climate emergency in High Peak, to working for ambitious actions to reduce carbon emissions, and to cooperating with other councils to get government funding. Our manifesto includes a section on climate emergency but working for a safe climate is the basis for all of our policies.