County councillors in East Yorkshire have rejected calls to declare a climate emergency for a second time.
They voted overwhelmingly today against a motion to recognise the urgency of the climate crisis and the council’s duty of leadership in the community.
Climate campaigners, including opponents of onshore oil and gas drilling, gathered outside the meeting in Beverley to support the motion.
But the council’s deputy leader, Mike Stathers (Conservative), said:
“Today is not the time to accept [this motion]. It would be premature. I therefore urge members to reject the motion, not because it’s not right, not because it’s improper, but simply because it’s not the right time.”
He said East Yorkshire was “ahead of the game” on tackling climate change and had been rolling out a strategic plan “for some time with significant success”.
Some authorities that had declared a climate emergency “are still sucking their thumbs wondering what to do next”, he said.
The chair of East Yorkshire’s climate review panel, Cllr Mike Medini (Conservative), urged councillors to wait for a report on how the council could reduce its carbon emissions.
But Cllr Andy Walker (Yorkshire Party), the author of the motion, said the declaration was about the council’s leadership role in the community.
East Yorkshire was one of the highest emitting local authorities in the UK, he said.
Carbon dioxide emissions had fallen by more than a quarter from 2005-2017, he said, but this was below the regional and national average.
“We are amongst the highest emitters and the least improved.
“To make this declaration is to leave no place for doubt, cynicism or denial. This is a question that councils up and down the land are considering and it is clear that this council is in a rapidly shrinking minority.”
He described climate change as “the most serious threat to our life on earth”. He said:
“Our way of life needs to change if we are to survive.
“Business as usual is now a redundant phrase.”
Cllr Denis Healy (Liberal Democrats) said there had been “much progress” since the council first refused to declare a climate emergency a year ago:
“The time is right now. It is nonsense to say we’ll wait for the review panel.”
Cllr Geraldine Mathieson (Independent) said the declaration would send a message to residents that the county council was taking climate change seriously and so should they.
Two Conservative councillors, David Jeffreys and Kerri Harold, suggested the motion was “putting the cart before the horse” because the climate change panel had not yet reported. Others suggested that a climate emergency should have been declared earlier.
Cllr David Nolan (Liberal Democrats) said:
“The ice caps are not going to stop melting because the East Riding scrutiny panel is still in progress and has yet to complete its work.
“Climate change will still happen. People deserve to know where the council stands on this.”
In a recorded vote, members rejected the motion by 44 to 16.
A list compiled by Climate Emergency shows that 274 (67%) of district, county, unitary and metropolitan councils had declared a climate emergency up to 6 February 2020.
Declarations are increasingly being referred to in planning decision meetings by opponents of onshore oil and gas applications.