West Norfolk Council rejects third attempt to declare climate emergency
Borough councillors have voted not to declare a state of climate emergency for the third time, despite the situation being compared to a “house on fire”.
West Norfolk councillors debated the issue of declaring a climate emergency at a full council meeting yesterday.
And councillors voted down an amendment calling on the council to “fully recognise the evolving climate and biodiversity crisis… and declare a climate and ecological emergency”.
Green Party councillor Michael de Whalley said: “This is our opportunity to learn the lessons of the current pandemic, such as the delay between cause and effect, to avert and prepare for the next by building a better, greener tomorrow.
"In the words of Albert Einstein, ‘the world is a dangerous place, because of those who look on and do nothing’.”
Labour's Jo Rust, who seconded the motion, added: “Economists are encouraging us to take action over this and our chancellor Rishi Sunak has spoken about the green agenda.
“There’s nothing political about the environment – we’re all guilty.”
And independent councillor Sandra Squire said: “We can be brave and ambitious or hide behind the government’s skirts – it is our area that will be affected.
“We are the last generation that can prevent really catastrophic consequences for humanity.
“If your house is on fire you call the fire brigade as an emergency.”
However, council leader Brian Long said: “My problem with the amendment is one of the resource that we need as an organisation going forward to be able to deliver word for word what Mr de Whalley keeps asking for. “
He said cabinet recommended not declaring an emergency but that steps had and would be taken.
“It’s not that I don’t agree with what’s been said,” he added. “The difference comes with whether we take it as an emergency.
"We’ve delivered food to the vulnerable, we’ve got the homeless off the streets. The only thing has been the response to Covid-19.”
Councillors voted against the climate emergency motion, but in favour of recognising the crisis and preparing a climate strategy.
Members of the borough's Extinction Rebellion group, who have staged a number of protests at previous meetings, viewed the proceedings, which were broadcast via the borough council's YouTube channel, remotely.
In a statement released after the meeting, they said: "The council leaders have failed in their duty to keep us safe.
"Everyone can see climate change is ravaging our planet, but our council voted against doing their part to prevent the worst from happening.
"The Covid-19 tragedy has highlighted what happens when we’re not prepared for a crisis, when we ignore scientists/experts, and when we don’t take action soon enough.
"We need to be sure to learn those lessons. The global lockdown showed how we can take drastic measures when faced with a threat, but the lockdown only reduced global emissions by 17 per cent so we need to move on from thinking personal sacrifices alone will save us.
"We need those in power to tackle the worst offenders and enact system change. Time is running out."
More by this authorJessica Frank-Keyes, Local Democracy Reporter
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