East Yorkshire – one of the UK’s biggest carbon polluting areas – has declared a climate emergency after two earlier failed attempts.
Today’s decision, backed by council leaders, was recommended by a cross-party climate review panel.
Previous votes by the county council in 2019 and 2020 were defeated by the ruling Conservative group.
Councillors at a virtual meeting, also voted to develop a climate change strategy within 12 months linked to an action plan for climate change mitigation and adaptation.
They committed to review procurement procedures to ensure environmental factors were “fully considered and appropriately weighted”. They also backed a recommendation for partnership working and influencing behaviour on climate change.
Cllr Mike Medini, who became a vegetarian since chairing the review panel, said:
“The first behaviour we need to change is our own.
“We can’t be leaders of the community and not lead by example.
“We need to change our individual efforts and the way we go about life before we start preaching to the residents.”
He said the council wanted to go beyond the “symbolic act” of declaring a climate emergency.
It wanted “to place itself in the best position possible to achieve the goal shared by all our residents, communities and business across the East Riding”, he said.
Cllr Medini said the council would need to collaborate with local partners to achieve reduced carbon emissions.
“The scale of the work needed for the council to meet the government’s target of net zero by 2050 is immense and shouldn’t be underestimated.”
Yorkshire Party councillor Andy Walker, the author of last year’s defeated declaration of a climate emergency, described the review panel’s recommendations as “the single most important document this council has produced in its lifetime”.
“It marks the moment that that we acknowledge that something has gone badly wrong.
“We need to recognise that we are by far the worst emitter of greenhouse gases outside London.”
The region was a severe risk of flooding, biodiversity was shrinking and the coastline was eroding faster than anywhere in Europe, he said.
“It is not enough to start doing the good things. We must stop doing the bad things too.”
Referring to plans for expansion of the local onshore oil and gas industry, he said:
“We are still enabling the exploration of fresh fossil fuel supplies. Honestly, in 2021, in the East Riding, it is utter madness.”
East Riding of Yorkshire Council planners recently ruled that proposals by Rathlin Energy to produce oil at its West Newton A site for 20 years would not need an environmental impact assessment (EIA).
DrillOrDrop reported that local people and councillors have opposed the decision. Cllr Jacob Birch, a Conservative member of East Riding of Yorkshire Council, is to ask the local government secretary to review East Yorkshire’s ruling.
Cllr Denis Healy, a member of the council’s pensions committee, said there was “a reluctance” to disinvest in fossil fuels. Like many councils, East Riding invests some of its pension fund in fossil fuel companies. He said:
“The pensions committee needs to live out the ideals of the climate change review in taking us towards a more responsible investment base for our pension fund.”
A panel member, Cllr David Jeffereys, called for the appointment of a council climate change coordinator:
“To reassure the public that we are very serious we need someone of expertise to coordinate and report to the council where we are going. We need someone of expertise and drive to pull it together.”