Council leaders call on East Yorkshire to declare a climate emergency

Senior Conservatives in East Yorkshire are urging the county council to declare a climate emergency – after defeating two previous calls by their opponents.

The council’s climate change review panel is making the case for a declaration to a key committee next week. A report will go to the meeting of the full council next month.

East Yorkshire is in the final quarter of UK local authorities yet to declare a climate emergency.

The cross-party review panel, which was established in September 2019, has made 12 recommendations. As well as the declaration, it proposes:

  • Developing a climate change strategy linked to an action plan for climate change mitigation and adaptation
  • Committing to review procurement procedures to ensure environmental factors are “fully considered and appropriately weighted”
  • Considering viability studies into the use of hydrogen as a fuel
  • Partnership working and influencing behaviour on climate change

In summer 2020, the Conservative-led council rejected a motion to declare a climate emergency that was supported by the Yorkshire Party, Liberal Democrats and Independents.

At that time, the council’s deputy leader, Mike Stathers, 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.”

In a recorded vote, the motion was defeated by 44 to 16.

A previous motion, in June 2019, also failed when Conservatives supported what was described as a “wrecking amendment”. This said a scrutiny committee was better placed than the full council to monitor “important and complex issues”.

In a council press release on the review panel recommendations, Cllr Stathers said:

“The council was called upon to declare a climate emergency in the summer of 2019 but we wanted to be sure that if we did it would not be a purely symbolic act but that it would have real substance behind it.

“By taking a considered and meticulous approach, a declaration will now provide residents, businesses and communities with a clear plan on how the East Riding will move forward and tackle this issue and I do believe this places the council in a strong position to deliver in comparisons to other local authority areas.

“The council had always recognised the threat of climate change and the risks it posed and had undertaken a great deal of work over the years to address this but we are not complacent and realise a great deal more needs to be done, and will be done.

“On the back of this report and its recommendations, the council can now move at pace to deliver, including on new projects to ensure the East Riding is leading the way to help combat climate change.”

Yorkshire Party councillor Andy Walker, the author of last year’s motion to declare a climate emergency, said:

“This should be the most important report from this Council since it was formed in 1996 and I am delighted that, at last, there is a chance of declaring a Climate Emergency. The East Riding is among the UK’s biggest emitters of greenhouse gases and unfortunately is likely to suffer the worst impact of climate change so of course it is an emergency.

“The report includes a warning from the Environment Agency that ‘If we win slowly, we still lose’ – and yet there is no proposal to put anyone in charge – no-one is to be responsible. At the very moment that we need focus, resolve and above all, action.. we ‘consider’ and ‘explore’ and we tell people how well we’re doing. To say I am disappointed would be an understatement.”

West Newton B hydrocarbon exploration site in Holderness. Photo: West Newton and Sproatley Gateway to the Gasfields

The 42 page review panel report said the East Yorkshire region was “at the centre of transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy”.

It made no reference to an onshore oil and gas field in Holderness, approved by the county council and described by the project’s leading partner as possibly the largest UK onshore hydrocarbon discovery since 1973.

In the past seven years, East Yorkshire’s planning committee has granted permission three time for exploration at two well sites at West Newton. Last year, the operator, Rathlin Energy, said it would seek permission for a further two sites in the area.

  • At October 2020, 300 of 404 (74%) of district, county, unitary and metropolitan councils had declared a climate emergency, according to the website Declare a Climate Emergency. Eight combined authorities and city regions had done the same.

Key dates

Meeting of overview management committee: Thursday 28 January, 10am, remote meeting

Meeting of full council: Wednesday 24 February, 2pm, remote meeting

  • East Riding of Yorkshire Council meetings are streamed on the council’s YouTube channel

Updated 22/1/2021 with quote from Cllr Andy Walker

11 replies »

  1. East Yorkshire conservatives call for a climate emergency
    Thats a good one the centre and laft has been calling for that for year or so
    Never the less we should all be callong for it We face a n enviromental crisis acrooss the country
    So why are we not getting it
    Rob in Lincoln

  2. Well, Robert, in my little bit of the country the environment has actually improved over the last year, mainly due to more people “working” from home.
    However, there are reasons for that and many would like those reasons to be removed, and many are planning for that, thumbing through the holiday brochures.

    The old argument of something needs to be done, again. Trouble is, even on this site, you would find a lot of different somethings, and then all put together and sifted for feasibility, very little of consequence, or practicality, would emerge.

    But, I do note that hydrogen consideration is part of this one. And then they can all argue about how to do it! Whilst the arguments will be interesting, I suspect the reality will be that to get that started, then economics of hydrogen production will be the driving force. Which, brings us back to fossil fuel.

      • Well, 1720, no need to be so critical of Robert. He might have some more positive suggestions to improve the environment, compared to yourself, who is against HS2!

        I would quite like to see more, CLEAN, fast electric trains, with the rest of them converted to CLEAN hydrogen. Much better for the environment, not just locally within UK, but also, with less electrification of all but the fast routes required, thus less mining over the horizon for all those materials to achieve electrification, and transport of them to UK. Plus, much easier, and cheaper, maintenance of the slower, local, routes.

        So, I would suggest my something is more positive than your something, which seems, apart from HS2, to be concentrated around “keeping it in the ground”. Sorry that my something requires not keeping it in the ground, but, that’s just part of the equation that we have discussed before.

  3. E Yorks talking about dealing with the emergency at glacial pace at last. Even the glaciers are melting faster than that.

  4. Will the declaration of a climate emergency by the council be enough to block the proposed extension to the West Newton site and the possibility of 6 additional wells over the next 25 years, or will national planning policy dash the anti hopes?

    • John – I doubt a declaration of a climate emergency overrides planning law? I have never really understood what such a declaration means. It clearly makes some people feel good but what else? We have it in Lancaster where the Greens and Labour are in coalition. It was part of the “deal”. But it doesn’t seem to mean much other than perhaps a few PV units on Council owned properties and a declaration that the Council will go carbon neutral by some date in the future.

      • As I’m sure everyone on here is aware, declaration of a climate emergency is nothing but green flag waving, UNLESS it is accompanied by a credible, measureable and time bounded policy to cut carbon emissions by the council, and preferably throughout their council area. Over to you East Yorks members.

      • Oh, and no, such a declaration certainly doesn’t override planning law. That’s dependent on planning law reflecting the needs and urgency of climate change. Those pigs don’t appear to be airborne yet, not even on white paper.

  5. It would appear that declaring a climate emergency is an indication of some new avenues to follow, not the scrapping of old avenues. Following new avenues requires some new ones to follow. Construction of avenues takes quite a long time. Meanwhile, old avenues will continue to be used and up-dated, as required.

    Of course, Councils will be able to obtain all sorts of money to discuss construction of new avenues, repeatedly, and some may actually then eventually do something. Meanwhile, the old avenues will be needed.

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