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.”
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.
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