Councillors agreed to declare the emergency today (June 20) during a passionate debate at County Hall in Northampton, and it will now follow suit after their colleagues across the road at The Guildhall, Northampton Borough Council, did the same earlier this month.Roughly 100 other authorities across the country, as well as the UK government, have also made the declaration, which intends to put climate change at the heart of every decision it makes.
Young residents Luke Adams, 23, and Chris Riches, 18, were there to support the motion, which was proposed by Liberal Democrat leader Chris Stanbra.
Luke told councillors he ‘feared for his future’, while Chris said: “You have a chance here to make a real change for future generations. We have 11 years until the damage we do to this planet becomes irreversible.”
The motion was also supported by the vast majority of councillors, with 37 votes in favour, eight against and four abstentions.
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Council leader Matt Golby informed the council he had given his side of the chamber a free vote on the issue, but supported the motion himself, saying: “It is incumbent on us all to do something.”
Councillor Stanbra, supporting his motion, said: “What is a climate emergency? There is no hard and fast definition. You only have to look at the evidence around you. Something is not right and it needs to change. This has got to be a team effort across the whole county. I sincerely hope we will do what we say we will do. We must act.”
He also asked councillors to reduce their use of single use plastics, adding: “It’s a small start that we can all make.”
But Conservative councillor Michael Clarke was one of those who voted against the motion. He said: “You have to take Lib Dem motions with a pinch of salt, and this one a very large dose of salt. This motion is about playing to the public gallery and getting a good headline in the newspaper.
“What is it going to cost the taxpayers’ of Northamptonshire to realise this goal of yours? Who is going to pay for this lavish menu?”
Other councillors questioned the detail and proposed costs behind making the county carbon neutral. But Councillor Clarke’s comments were not the predominant view within his own party.
Conservative councillor Adam Brown said: “I think this motion has left it fairly for us to adapt to the circumstances. Where would we be without ambitious targets? If you aim for the sun you might reach for the stars.”
And Councillor Pinder Chauhan added: “There was a comment about Conservatives only caring about money. Conservatives do care about the environment. A lot of assumptions are made about us. I will be supporting the motion.”
The agreed motion means the county council will commit to a target of making Northamptonshire carbon neutral by 2030, and calls upon the unitary councils that will replace it in 2021 to continue this work once they come into existence.
Before that, two reports will come back to full council detailing how the authority has been acting on the resolution.