At the full council meeting on October 15th, High Peak Borough Council unanimously declared a climate emergency and agreed to set up a working group to determine the actions needed to confront the emergency both in the council's own operations and more widely by working with partners across the High Peak and in our neighbouring local authorities.
It was encouraging to hear councillors from all parties not only express their support but also put forward ideas about the actions we need to take. I was glad to hear that councillors accepted that the Local Plan would need to be reviewed . Hopefully this will lead to measurable progress on climate change being included in the plan, for example, minimum amounts of renewable energy generation and high energy efficient standards for any new developments. At the moment, many housing developments are going ahead across the High Peak that meet only minimal energy efficiency standards. The problems of emissions from these houses will be around for decades unless we undertake expensive retrofits.
Proposing the motion, Joanna Collins, Green Party councillor for Hope Valley, described the scale of the talk facing the council as daunting but absolutely necessary and doable. Here is her speech.
First of all, I’ll like to say that as a Green Party councillor I feel privileged to be proposing this Motion to declare a Climate Emergency, though rather daunted by the size of the task facing us. Labour’s support for the Motion is very welcome.
I am pleased the Corporate Plan contains climate actions and High Peak is on its way to addressing environmental problems. I hope this Motion will underpin fast, effective action on climate change and the natural environment, and act as a guide in all future activities of the Council.
There is a climate emergency, as I’m sure most people in this room would agree. 97% of the world’s scientists agree that climate change is happening, and is caused by humanity. The past year has provided plenty of evidence of this, with major reports on the need to cut carbon emissions, loss of biodiversity and disrupted food systems, among other interrelated issues. Locally, just this year we’ve seen February days hotter than July, and excessive rainfall casing havoc to people’s lives. Schoolchildren, environmentalists and activists have got many people to agree to the urgency of climate change, and increasing numbers of people are expecting national and local government to respond accordingly.
The challenge facing us is daunting but that doesn’t mean we can’t act. Nearly fifty per cent of Councils across Britain, including most of our neighbouring borough and district councils, have recognised this and passed motions declaring a climate emergency. High Peak must be next.
You may ask: what does declaring a climate emergency mean? It’s a clear statement that the Council recognises the situation we’re in. As the word “emergency” suggests, it means `if your roof is falling in, you do not say “hey, it’s an emergency” and then take your time to get it repaired. We must cut emissions now if we are to achieve our target of carbon neutrality by 2030. We must do it not just for our children and grandchildren, but for everyone. We need to act now so that we achieve radical change in our lifetimes.
Declaring a Climate Emergency is therefore just a first step. The Declaration provides a basis for policy-making and effective action. There is a great deal of information on climate change at the local level to inform the Council’s decisions, and examples of effective action from Councils across Britain.
Councils are producing income through renewable energy generation, building energy efficient homes, providing improved public transport, encouraging innovative green businesses, improving recycling, encouraging nature to return to the land they manage – the list of examples is long. The declaration of a climate emergency will demonstrate that High Peak is also committed to more sustainable and innovative approaches to its activities.
We need to work together on this. Action on the climate emergency is not a party-political issue – across the UK, Councils of all political colours have passed climate emergency motions and are changing their practices. And the Council cannot achieve the changes needed on its own, so the Motion includes working with partners, including local people in forums such as Citizens’ Assemblies. It includes lobbying government for the resources we need to achieve our target. Climate change and loss of biodiversity are cross-cutting issues which cannot be confined to a narrowly-defined “sustainability” or similar part of the Council’s activities. So the Motion also requires that all the Council’s policies and decisions include consideration of their environmental impact. It recognises the necessity for planning and measurement of our achievements, and regular reporting back to the Council so we work towards our target, “carbon neutral by 2030”.
In keeping with the size of the problems we face, this is an ambitious Motion, but it is not an eccentric one. It is based on those already passed in other Councils, and is close to that of our partner, Staffordshire Moorlands. Given our shared services, we hope that this will make it easier to deliver polices and activities which address our environmental problems.
Finally, I’ll hope you’ll agree that the Council must pass this Motion to Declare a Climate Emergency for the future of everyone in High Peak.