Wed, 17 Jul 2019
YOUNG climate change protesters have said that they will hold West Berkshire Council to account after the local authority declared a climate emergency.
As reported in last week’s Newbury Weekly News, the council is aiming to make the district carbon neutral by 2030, but postponed a motion calling for it to object to the proposed expansion of Heathrow Airport.
Youth Climate Strikers, who walked out of their schools lessons to protest about the impact of climate change, joined other campaigners at last week’s meeting.
In a statement, the group expressed their pride in the council for finally declaring a climate emergency, after an attempt in May was delayed because of a technicality in the wording of a petition.
The Youth Climate Strikers said: “The declaration of a climate emergency has been one of the main aims of our strikes, so we are of course very excited that our voices have not only been heard, but also listened to.
“We hope that this declaration will be a catalyst for more positive environmental changes in the future.
“The council must recognise that urgent and transformative action is the only suitable response to an ‘emergency’ and we will continue to hold them to account to ensure that their actions match their words.
“Even within this meeting we saw indications that attitudes have not really changed, with the Heathrow third runway debate being delayed until September and party divisions hindering decisive action.”
After praising local groups for highlighting the issue of climate change, Carolyne Culver (Green, Ridgeway) told the meeting that councillors had been told that a new cross-party climate board would be formed.
“We are now being told it will be Conservative portfolio holders only,” she said.
“Can we trust the Conservatives with the environment?”
“Can we trust you with the economy?” replied Alan Law (Con, Basildon).
“Can we trust you with Boris Johnson or Jeremy Hunt,” Mrs Culver quipped back.
“I would urge that the new board be cross-party.
“The challenge that we face needs us all to be involved.”
Owen Jeffery (Lib Dem, Thatcham Central) added: “We need to make sure that we don’t have a single party-led group, but make sure it’s cross party.
“This is not something for you to crow about as Conservatives.
“This is something that this council has got to do for the future of our children and our grandchildren.”
Executive member for the environment Steve Ardagh-Walter (Con, Thatcham Colthrop and Crookham) responded that a cross-party advisory group would feed into and scrutinise the climate board.
The Youth Climate Strikers said: “We have repeatedly emphasised the need for cooperation and the importance of climate policy being a non-partisan issue, so were surprised to learn that the new environment working group would include only Conservative portfolio holders.
“This declaration does represent a significant victory for climate activists and the hardworking Green councillors, but it is clear that we can’t be complacent and our work is not yet done.”