Attempt to declare climate emergency in West Suffolk referred to cabinet
An attempt to get West Suffolk Council to declare a climate emergency has been referred to cabinet at a full council meeting on Tuesday.
A motion to declare an emergency was put forward by Councillors Max Clarke and Cliff Waterman, both from the labour party.
Cllr Clarke said: “The UK is struggling to meet its [climate] target. Quite simply we can’t rely on the Government to take the lead on this.”
Members of the Bury St Edmunds Extinction Rebellion group, who are campaigning for climate change, attended the meeting with Julia Wakelam, a former councillor, speaking on their behalf.
She said: “By declaring a climate emergency, by being a leader, the council has the opportunity to use its influence to change the behaviour of all our residents and businesses. Future residents will thank you.”
Although Cllr Clarke and Cllr Waterman were hoping for a discussion on the issue and for an emergency to be declared, as per the constitution the motion was referred to cabinet.
Cllr John Griffiths, leader of the West Suffolk Council, stated that a new task force with aims to find practical solutions to tackle climate change had been given the green light.
West Suffolk Council cabinet will discuss the task force and what it will focus on at its next meeting on Tuesday.
Cllr Griffiths said: “I think pretty well everyone can agree about the need to reduce harmful impacts on our environment and we all need to take further steps to do this.
“The task force I have proposed will make sure we continue to to play our part.”
Speaking after the meeting, Charlotte Kirin, a member of the Bury Extinction Rebellion group, said: “Our feeling is there’s no understanding in that room on the damage that’s going to be done. It is absolutely an emergency – they said it’s all in hand, they don’t understand what’s going on.”
Cllr Waterman said the Labour group would continue to do all in its power to tackle climate change.
After the meeting he said: “The Conservative leadership of the council used procedural rules to block any discussion on the motion.
“Councillors from all parties were left shocked that they could not debate the motion.
“I was furious and dismayed. Suddenly, and without any discussion, the Chair moved business on to the next item.
“There were many people in the public area and even amongst councillors who didn’t really understand what had happened. Afterwards, the members of the public were left angry and frustrated that the motion hadn’t been discussed.”
Suffolk County Council declared a climate emergency in March and vowed to make dedicated efforts to cut its carbon footprint – a task force is to be set up in September.