Councillors have voted to declare a ‘climate emergency’ in Northampton as it bids to become carbon neutral by 2030.
Members of Northampton Borough Council won a round of applause from climate activists in the public gallery who, earlier on in the meeting, and outside in a peaceful demonstration, had passionately told councillors that they needed to act now.
Dozens of activists spoke out in support of two climate change motions from councillors at The Guildhall last night (June 3), with some patiently waiting for almost four hours to have their say.
One speaker was David Garlick, of Transition Town Northampton, who said: “If we are to respond with the speed the planet needs, we must work together. No time for trumpeting past successes, no time for criticising past failures and no time for making political capital as these will only divide us and delay progress towards zero carbon Northampton, which is the essential initial goal.”
Ruth Hemmingway, of the Northampton branch of Extinction Rebellion, added: “I never want my nieces to see pictures of whole species being wiped out. But this is our reality."
And resident Luke Adams, 23, said he was ‘petrified’ for his future, while Ian Bates said that climate change was ‘the most important thing we can possibly talk about’.
The first motion, from Liberal Democrat leader Sally Beardsworth, called on the council to commit to making Northampton carbon neutral by 2030, and for a report to come before council at the start of next year detailing what action had been taken and what plans could be passed onto the new unitary authority that will be formed in 2021.
She said: “I listened to the morning chorus today and wondered what life would be like if there was silence. And what if I went to walk my dog and the land wasn’t green, but was barren. We have to do something about this now. This won’t go away.”
The motion was passed unanimously, as was a second similar motion from Labour councillor Paul Joyce. It was also seconded by Conservative council leader Jonathan Nunn.
It also called for a ban on single-use plastics within school environments, for the council to work with companies who turn unrecyclable plastics into outdoor furniture, and to explore options for an eco-rewards scheme that would allow local businesses and residents to gain something back from recycling.
Councillor Joyce said that a ‘green revolution was required’, before Conservative councillor Mike Hallam, cabinet member for the environment, said: “The administration will, of course, be supporting both motions. We are already doing good work. We have a 14 per cent increase in recycling in the last month alone.”
But Labour councillor Zoe Smith was keen to impress upon councillors the decision they were taking in declaring a climate emergency, saying: “What we are about to agree here is real and serious. If we declare a climate emergency it has to be the focus of everything we do. It can’t just be nodded through.”
Despite winning the round of applause from the public gallery, climate activists now say they will be holding the council, and the councillors who passed it through, to account.
Steve Miller, from Northampton Green Party, said: “There is a lot of public support for this and this is a real opportunity for Northampton Borough Council to set an example to the rest of the country.
“An important first step would be to address the deficiencies in the new Local Plan, which is currently out for consultation. The council has an immediate opportunity to commit to energy efficiency in new build housing across the town. If the opportunity isn’t taken now, then it will make the trip to zero carbon even more difficult.”