County Council declares climate emergency

Hampshire takes a step closer towards carbon neutrality after cabinet members recommend the Council declare a Climate Emergency. Cllr Martin Todd: "It's two steps forward and one step back"

Pic: A.Kerfant/pixabay

Yesterday, at the first Cabinet meeting to be chaired by HCC’s new Leader Councillor Keith Mans the first item on the agenda was a motion from Councillor Martin Todd proposing that the County Council should recognise there is a Climate Emergency and commit to an action plan to move it towards carbon neutrality in line with the government’s target of net zero greenhouse gases by 2050.

In doing so HCC join 80 principal local authorities across the country who are already taking urgent action to reduce their carbon footprint.

As an MP Cllr Mans had been a founding member of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on the Environment and he opened the debate with a clear statement of intent:

“By declaring a climate emergency we will be indicating our view that this a very important subject that we need to get to grips with and I commit to preparing an action plan – and this is by far more important than the declaration itself – to help us deliver carbon neutrality for the County Council and importantly to address climate resilience in Hampshire.”

Cabinet members heard a number of deputations from local environmental groups; Hampshire Renewable Energy Co-operative, Winchester Action on Climate Change (WinACC), Extinction Rebellion and Friends of the Earth.

The representatives urged the council to declare a climate emergency and to urgently follow this up with an action plan and targets, stressing that time was of the essence. There were several calls to establish a citizen’s assembly and several specific practical suggestions – for example to stop beef production on HCC land and to lift the council’s 2013 embargo on wind turbines.

The Cabinet also heard from a cross-party representation of back-bench councillors in favour of the proposal before approving the following motion:

The Cabinet declares a climate emergency in line with the action taken by many other councils and organisations in the UK and globally, and commits to develop an action plan to provide a meaningful and effective set of measures to ensure that Hampshire moves towards carbon neutrality and greater resilience to the effects of climate change.

Afterwards the County Councillor for Chandler’s Ford, Cllr Judith Grajewski – recently appointed to the Cabinet as Executive Member for Public Health- told Eastleigh News:

“I’m very pleased that Cabinet agreed to recommend to all councillors that the County Council produces its own action plan to further reduce carbon emissions in line with government policy. The County Council has been actively addressing this issue for some years and is already exceeding its target for carbon reduction, however recognises there is more to do. It will be important to take into account the findings of the recent Hampshire 2050 Commission of Inquiry on this issue to identify specific deliverable measures which can be taken across the county and explore how other bodies and the public can be engaged in the process.

“It was encouraging that so many members of the public attended today’s meeting to both share their knowledge and show their support for carbon reduction.”

Liberal Democrat County Councillor Martin Todd, who had proposed the original motion, described the Cabinet’s decision as .  and said there was still work to be done:

“I’m pleased that the council cabinet has responded to the motion I proposed by recognising the climate emergency and setting a target of zero net carbon but the original motion asked them to agree a target date to achieve it by and that hasn’t happened.

“My goal now is to get the council to commit to an ambitious timing to deliver the target and a robust action plan to achieve it – and not just for the council, but also for the county as a whole.”

You can watch a recording of the debate on the HCC website  here