Wednesday 20 March the City of York Council discussed a motion to declare a climate emergency. You can read the text of the motion. We believe that this is the greatest problem that we are facing, and if we do not address the problem the results will be disastrous for us all.
Before the meeting there was a lively demonstration which was well attended with banners and chanting and drumming.
We are delighted that the motion was supported by all the parties on the Council (the Conservatives even saying it was the first motion from us where they agreed with it all). The motion was overwhelmingly passed, with all but one councillor voting for the motion, and one abstention.
We are aware that passing the motion is only the beginning, and now the hard work of actually implementing the motion begins.
At the start of the meeting 4 Green Party members spoke passionately explaining why we need the motion. Three speeches are reproduced below.
Hello, my name is John Cossham and I’m speaking in support of the City of York Council declaring a climate emergency.
It’s very clear that humans, and many other species are facing a stark future due to increasing levels of greenhouse gases altering ecosystems and the climate.
I have tried to help and persuade York to adopt a more sustainable approach since the late 1980s. Through the 90s I was involved in Local Agenda 21 – following the Rio summit, and helped her an LA21 officer installed in the Council. The job title changed and Lynne Ceeney became our first sustainability officer. Several more people filled the post in time, and I hope that soon the job will be reinstated as Climate Emergency Officer.
York has had several other attempts to cut carbon, do things more efficiently and with less waste and pollution. Most recently One Planet York, which has seen a positive few steps in the right direction.
However, as the scale of the problem has become clearer, and the threat of climate catastrophe has become more accepted, it is obvious that we have a long way to go.
Declaring a climate emergency will entail a huge challenge – but opportunity too, for green jobs, technical innovation, and different approaches to living well. The challenge is a global one, and although the UK and York only emits a fraction of the total, we have to play or part, and work with other local authorities, universities, the NHS, bus and rail companies, unions, house builders, everyone.
The Council will face criticism and opposition for doing this, but you’ll also have a lot of help and support. Maybe, to make the process fairer, and deflect negativity away from elected members, you could set up a Citizen’s Assembly to help make difficult decisions, mirroring what Extinction Rebellion is asking national government.
Declaring a Climate Emergency is not going to guarantee a green and prosperous future, as some climate change impacts are already inevitable. But if we all work together, and are serious about it, we may have a better outcome than if we carry on with “business as usual”.
Future generations, whatever the environment is throwing at them, will thank us for trying. Being a responsible ancestor is the highest accolade we can aspire to.
I ask you to unanimously vote for putting York into a climate emergency.
Lord Mayor, Councillors thank you for allowing me to speak.
I am speaking as Chair of York Green Party
When I was growing up many of us were seriously worried that there would be a nuclear war that would annihilate all of us. Many of us worked hard to reduce those risks, and we had international treaties such as START 1 an START 2. We knew that it was totally within the control of politicians whether or not we were all killed.
Climate change has many similarities and some differences.
Climate change will kill literally billions of people if we don’t prevent it,
But, the real difference is that this time we can all act to prevent climate change, we are not just dependent on governments to act. But if we don’t we will be equally culpable for the disaster that ensues.
Climate change is an entirely preventable human-created disaster. We have the information to understand the problem, and we know what to do. The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recently said we have just 12 years to prevent a catastrophe.
We are in a climate emergency, and we must all act NOW, as the children of York, and elsewhere, shouted out last week.#City of York Council must take leadership locally by declaring an emergency and then following through on that by taking bold action to make York carbon neutral by 2030.
Some of the actions that we need to take will be difficult, and may not be popular, but leadership is about taking people with you even when the decisions are unpopular.
We need to support projects that will reduce carbon usage and cut projects that will increase carbon production. It will be as important to produce a carbon budget as a financial one.
We can no longer afford developments on the ring road that are not properly supported by public transport so that people drive to them. New developments in the local plan must be connected to the City by zero carbon transport including excellent active transport facilities and zero carbon public transport. All new developments must show how they are contributing to achieving zero carbon by 2030, otherwise they are not sustainable developments.
Time is short. The time to act is now, before it is too late.
Please vote for the climate emergency motion.
I’m Sam, I was born in York and I love our city. I love it because I spent my formative years here, formative years that I now remember with a sour tinge as they were spent living in an area with one of the worst air quality records going. I remember being flooded out of our home on River Street in the year 2000 and I can now link this with climate change.
Some people see York for its history, some people see it for the University, the races or the rail museum. Virtually no-one sees it as hotbed for youthful activism or fresh radical actions. But the young have so much to teach us about the issues that matter to them and we should listen to them first and foremost on matters concerning their future. We have seen this most poignantly in the Youth Climate Strikes recently and we see it again today in who has chosen to come out and support this motion.
This motion is entirely feasible, entirely achievable and entirely realistic. Bristol, Manchester and parts of London have declared their aims to be carbon neutral by 2030 and they have airports in their jurisdiction. The least York can do is declare the same with our comparatively low industrial areas and comparatively high greenbelt.
We’ve been scientifically sure of climate change for over 50 years, but it wasn’t until the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change report last year that the world started to take notice with these climate emergency declarations. According to the report the difference between 1.5 degrees of warming and 2 degrees means losing not 90% of our coral reefs which is already disastrous but 100%. That’s 1.5 and 2, but we’re currently heading for 3 – 4 degrees of warming. Achieving limiting emissions to 1.5 C will require “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all levels of society”, so let’s lead the way here in York.
The zeitgeist is this. This is a global movement in the US, New Zealand, Canada, Switzerland and here in the UK just so far. 36 principal municipalities have declared a climate emergency so far in the UK – let’s be the 37th. York has its history secured in the books, let’s put us on the map for the future too.