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West Berkshire Council declares climate emergency

Activists celebrate after landmark decision

Charlie Masters

John Herring

john.herring@newburynews.co.uk

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07964 444701

West Berkshire Council declares climate emergency

West Berkshire Council has declared a climate emergency.

The declaration comes just one month after a previous request for it to do so was rejected on a technicality.

Councillors also made a commitment to making West Berkshire carbon neutral by 2030.   

Climate change ‘protectors’, accompanied by police officers, gathered in the council chamber ahead of Tuesday night’s meeting, calling on the local authority to make the declaration and also oppose the proposed expansion of Heathrow.

The climate emergency requires the council to work with businesses and residents and request the Government to provide it with the powers and resources to achieve the goal. 

Proposing the declaration, executive member for the environment Steve Ardagh-Walter (Con, Thatcham Colthrop and Crookham) said that the council needed to lead by example, but, ultimately, residents needed to respond to avert the emergency. 

He see: “I’m glad to see that this is not a contentious issue.

“I don’t believe there is any disagreement with the urgency of tackling climate change.”

In declaring an emergency, the council will develop a strategic plan to achieve carbon neutrality by 2030, which Mr Ardagh-Walter said would need to “dovetail with other elements of the council’s strategic plan”.

He said: “This is not an exclusive type of emergency where we can drop everything else and evacuate the house, to use the house is on fire analogy.

“We have to work on our other priorities in conjunction with our overall plan, as well as making progress on this matter.

“However, the word emergency is quite specific.

“It signals to ourselves and everyone here that this is a serious problem.

“If human beings do not change, the climate will suffer serious harm.” 

He said he was pleased that the motion had been developed cross-party.

He also commended Green Party member Steve Masters (Speen) for “energising and pulling together” people who signed the petition.

Mr Ardagh-Walter also praised the “energy and passion” of people who had called for the declaration. 

Mr Masters, who started the petition before being elected as a councillor in May, said it was reassuring to see that the new administration had  “embraced the public mood and committed to dealing with what is the greatest challenge facing humanity”.

He added: “It is all the more encouraging when you contrast the reaction back in January, when the idea of such a declaration was dismissed as hyperbole and worthy, but ultimately a misguided ambition. 

“All that is now in the past. The focus now turns to the future and how we move forward from here.

“Make no mistake, we must be seen to deliver.”

Mr Masters said that the declaration was “merely the first step” and that the council needed to be innovative, ambitious and serious.

“Half measures won’t cut it,” he said. “Business as usual won’t deliver on our aspirations.”

Seconding the motion, shadow portfolio holder for climate change Adrian Abbs (Lib Dem, Wash Common) said that “all solutions should be carrot-based” and deliver benefits to the people implementing them. 

He added that whole energy principles should be considered and that practical and cost-effective measures were needed.  

In response Dominic Boeck (Con, Aldermaston) said: “I have been hearing a lot of emotions and heartfelt concerns about the challenge before us.

“We have more than this one subject to think about.

“Let us not forget our old people, our children in care, the education of our children.

“This needs to go on at the same time, it can’t be our single focus. Let’s not forget our most vulnerable in our community.”

Mr Ardagh-Walter said they would be a forming of a cross-party advisory group.

He added that the group would be broad, scrutinise strategy and provide feedback on the delivery and content of the council’s environmental plan. 

He said: “There is absolutely no subterfuge here. There will be cross-party input and I welcome it.”

Councillors voted unanimously in favour of declaring a climate emergency.

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