There is an argument that the vast majority of global warming is caused by large companies, and the governments of nation states including the UK keep letting them get away with it. Decisions made by a relatively small unitary authority cannot begin to address even the tip of this rapidly melting iceberg.
There is another argument that everything we do as individuals has some impact in some way on the environment, and anyone with any power to create change at any level needs to be doing all they possibly can.
Somewhere in the middle is the argument that if people take more personal interest and personal responsibility, they will become motivated to demand better from their governments; and if local councils do everything they can, this increases media attention and public awareness, contributing to the pressure on national government.
With this in mind, councillors Peter Jones and Mary Sherwood began discussing a motion declaring climate emergency. A first draft was brought to the Labour group for debate in early 2019. It was generally agreed that this did not go far enough in explaining our commitment to respond to climate crisis. At the same time, we were being contacted by campaigners with ideas to help reduce carbon (many of which we were already doing, but not explaining well) and from climatologists and other relevant local scientists keen to offer their expertise in support.
In early spring, Mary shared a new draft with councillors Peter Jones, Clive Lloyd and Andrea Lewis. After further discussion, additions and changes, it was presented to the Labour group in April and approved unanimously. With May being the Council AGM, the notice of motion was added to the next available Council agenda, June 2019.
Many people believe that the UK government declared a Climate Emergency on 1st May. Sadly, this isn’t correct. Labour presented the motion on an Opposition Day, one of 20 days in the Parliamentary year on which opposition parties are allowed to set the agenda. Being approved therefore means that the House of Commons acknowledges its agreement in principle, but has no legal obligation to act. All they have to do is send a formal response from the relevant Cabinet Member, and Michael Gove did respond, making no declaration of climate emergency or agreement with the targets Labour proposed.
Welsh government did declare a Climate Emergency, and we are waiting eagerly to see how this will translate into new instructions to Welsh councils. Meanwhile, a policy development committee, chaired by Cllr Louise Gibbard, will begin the work promised in the motion. The full text is here.