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West Suffolk Council declares climate emergency but Extinction Rebellion activists call for detailed action

West Suffolk Council has declared a climate emergency but activists have called for detailed action to ensure the policy has a real impact including the need for a Citizens’ Assembly.

Members of the climate change protest group Extinction Rebellion descended on West Suffolk Council’s meeting last night (September 19) to welcome the move and state their case for what more should be done to tackle the issue.

Green councillor Lisa Ingwall King also called on the council to declare an environment emergency to introduce ecological protection measures.

Extinction Rebellion activists at West Suffolk House last night
Extinction Rebellion activists at West Suffolk House last night

The authority has set up an environment and climate change task force to develop options to help it become net-zero carbon by 2030.

During the meeting at West Suffolk House in Bury St Edmunds, Richard Hallewell, from Extinction Rebellion, called for a Citizens’s Assembly to be established to ‘separate’ the problem from ‘all political and commercial agendas’.

A Citizens’ Assembly brings together a group of people, chosen at random, to discuss an issue and agree a way forward.

Julia Wakelam, a former Green councillor for St Edmundsbury, questioned where were proposals to ‘encourage less car use, support more public transport and improve our air quality’.

Referring to efforts by herself and Cllr Diane Hind to encourage the council to implement a full anti-idling policy and anti-idling zones to stop motorists leaving their engine running when parked, Cllr Wakelam said that, apart from publicity about a council campaign in June, she had seen ‘no further action from the council’.

“I’ve seen no reduction in the number of vehicles pumping out their fumes,” she added.

“I would like to believe this isn’t a blue print for future actions by the council but I fear it may very well be so.”

She asked for a report of the task force’s progress be made available before each full council meeting.

Campaigner Robert Possnett called on the council to support today's global climate strike.

Fellow Extinction Rebellion member Mandy Leathers presented the authority with 36 solutions to halve carbon emissions by 2030.

Labour Cllr Diane Hind said: “It’s great that we have the task force and welcome the chance to declare a climate emergency.

“It’s fine to have aspirations but we have to have concrete action to go with those.”

Labour Cllr Max Clarke suggested the need for a park and ride to help make the ‘town centre greener’, which could form part of the council’s Western Way Development.

Addressing Julia Wakelam’s points, Cllr John Griffiths, leader of West Suffolk Council, said: “I totally agree - action is more than words. I think you’re being a little tough on a council that’s probably doing more and plans to do more than you think.”

He cited Toggam Solar Farm, solar panels on West Suffolk House, the council’s work with businesses to encourage them to be more energy efficient and the recycling of a steel frame for the Western Way Development.

Cllr Griffiths said he would send the Citizens’ Assembly idea and other suggestions to the task force, which will also consider Cllr King’s motion for an environment emergency.

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