After weeks of marches and protests, climate change activists and local Labour members have succeeded in convincing Canterbury Council to listen. A state of emergency has finally been declared but only after the Tory-led city councillors were dragged there, kicking and screaming. Historically, the Conservative faction has argued that they could not take the necessary lead on congestion and pollution in our seaside towns and City, because it was not their problem, passing the responsibility instead to the wider body of Kent County Council.
Canterbury city councillors previous ignored clear indications that action was desperately needed, which has led to decisions being made this month to concrete over wildlife areas in Wincheap in order to extend the Park & Ride system, and to commit £9 million of our money to a car park in the centre of Canterbury that will increase congestion and pollution. They have also taken almost two years to install just a dozen car charging points across the whole district, and have ridiculed campaigns calling for a rethink of transport in Canterbury using an Integrated Transport Hub approach, revised Park and Ride schemes for commuters and much more. It seems like the climate was not an emergency for Canterbury’s Tory-led Council, until they were told that it needed to be by local activists. The Council is now declaring a Climate Emergency proposing a Carbon Neutral Council by 2030 and, finally, starting to show some leadership.
So what has changed? Nothing less than public opinion. Think back just a few weeks to the Extinction Rebellion peaceful protest at the Council’s AGM, with their pointed comment of “Less Pomp More Action,” that evening. Extinction Rebellion have always asked us all to rise above politics and get on with the urgent job in hand. Rest assured, we will be doing that now the opportunity may well be opening up. For the ten newly-elected Labour councillors, as participants in debates, marches and campaigns to heighten awareness of the issue, our climate has always been a priority.
This Wednesday, 17 July 2019, the recommendation on Climate Change is bought forward by the Tory Group for discussion, to the Policy and Resources Committee. It pulls together the sentiments and wording of the two Climate Change Motions logged for debate at full Council on Thursday 18th July by the LibDems and Labour.
We will seek to improve the recommendations published through the Policy and Resources Committee before is put to full Council the day after. Firstly, we will aim to ensure the proposed Canterbury Climate Change Board is an independent body. As such, it will be better protected from the political changes over the next ten, perhaps even the next thirty years. Its purpose should be as a critical friend and advisor to the Council, local businesses and residents. Finally, it should measure and report the progress towards carbon neutrality by 2013 and independently publish its findings. The Labour Group hopes that the Tory leadership will see the huge boost in credibility independence this will bring in the long term.
In developing Climate Change Strategy, the Council must drive all that follows coherently in order to achieve the 2030 target. The Labour Group believe the Councillors’ Working Group needs to deliver the framework document, encompassing existing and new Policy, by the end of this year. Without a plan the urgent progress implied in a Climate Emergency is severely impacted, even neglected.
Finally, the Labour Group would like to issue a call to everyone to get involved in the Local Plan and Corporate Plan changes which are planned over the coming months. We will aim to ensure that Climate Change measures are embedded in every aspect of these guiding documents on Wednesday but there will much to do. It is vital that every new and refurbished house in Canterbury District should be Carbon Neutral as well as every part of CCC operations and every business playing their part. Wednesday will see the Labour Group doing what it can to ensure a carbon neutral future is ours finally, there is no time to lose, a Climate Emergency will be declared. Stand with us, and we can combat these dangers together.
Labour Councillor for Northgate, Alan Baldock.