Tue, 18 Jun 2019
A CLIMATE emergency has been declared at Newbury Town Council.
Town councillors took the “brave and bold” decision to declare a climate emergency and to make council activities carbon neutral by 2030 at a meeting on Monday, June 10.
The motion also included how the town council could support and promote wider activities to help Newbury as a whole become more sustainable.
Calling on councillors to declare a climate emergency, town council leader Martin Colston (Lib Dem, West Fields) said: “It’s clear to us that to tackle the challenge of climate change, we need to act at all levels of government and all levels of society and that we need to act now.
“That is why I believe it is wholly appropriate for us, as Newbury Town Council, to make this commitment today.”
The town council will establish a climate emergency working group, whose brief includes recommending how best to engage with experts, potential partner organisations, outside bodies and community groups to develop its strategy.
Mr Colston said councillors had been “inspired by the actions of passionate local individuals and groups” such as young climate strikers and Thatcham Renewable.
He added that the issue of climate change transcended party politics and that the Green Party would be backing the call to action.
Seconding the motion, Steve Masters (Green, Speenhamland) said that the globally-important issue would affect local people and that opportunities to tackle the crisis were being missed.
He said: “It will improve the lives of local people, improve overall health and wellbeing, as well as securing the future for our children and, for many of us, our grandchildren.
“It is a win-win and Newbury Town Council can play a vital role in this.
“There will be hard decisions to make going forward.
“There’s no bigger challenge facing humanity at this time and we should not shirk from our responsibility.”
The Lib Dem-controlled town council’s declaration comes two weeks after Conservative-controlled West Berkshire Council reluctantly rejected a petition calling on it to do the same.
The district council committed to declaring a climate emergency and working towards a carbon-neutral district by 2030 on May 30.
But because the petition called for a strategy to be in place by June 1, the motion was voted down.
The district council is set to adopt the strategy next month.
And it was a similar position on Monday, as Jeff Beck (Con, Clay Hill) said that, although he supported the motion in principle, he disagreed with the wording.
Suggesting that the wording change to ‘strive to make council activities neutral by 2030’, Mr Beck said: “I do feel that this town council does not have total control over everything that will affect us.
“In all honesty, there’s not one person in this chamber this evening that knows what the practical and economically-sustainable steps will be to achieve this objective going forward.
“If the wording is to remain as it is I will be forced to abstain from this motion.”
Responding to Mr Beck, Sue Farrant (Lib Dem, Clay Hill) said: “I’m very proud that this council is taking this brave and bold step.
“I do understand your concerns, I hope you will reconsider.
“It’s an emergency and we need to be really ambitious about what we are trying to do.”
Olivia Lewis (Lib Dem, East Fields) added: “This conversation has gone on and on and on.
“I don’t want my children turning to me and saying ‘mummy why didn’t you do anything’.
“That’s what I’m afraid of.
“No one said this will be easy.
“It’s no longer time to prolong the difficult decisions, we have no choice.”
Town councillors adopted the motion. Mr Beck abstained.