Lancaster City Council has unanimously declared a “climate emergency”, and will work towards reducing carbon emissions to net-zero by 2030, bringing forward its current 2050 goal by 20 years.
The motion, which was proposed by Labour party councillor Kevin Frea, was strongly supported by local youth, who gathered the 1,500 signatures necessary to force a debate in the council in just three days.
Lancaster, which sits about 25 miles north of the Preston New Road fracking site, is the latest in a string of cities to declare a “climate emergency”. Bristol kick-started the trend in the UK with a motion passed in November 2018, and Oxford, Bradford and Scarborough passed similar motions earlier this month.
“It really injects a sense of urgency,” says Frea, who says his motion was heavily influenced by these predecessors.
Specifically, the motion sets up a “Climate Change Cabinet Liaison Group”, which, over the coming year, will review the city’s climate change strategy and develop a new carbon budget considering both consumption- and production-based emissions. It also requests a report on the extent to which the Council has investments in the fossil fuel industry, to be delivered within the next three months.
Influenced by Extinction Rebellion, the motion also calls for a Citizens’ Assembly to be convened in 2019, which Councillor Frea hopes will provide insights from across Lancaster residents on how to reach net-zero emissions by 2030. “As far as I know, no other council has done that yet,” he says.
But Frea acknowledges that this is just a first step. Without “constant vigilance” from the community – and without an injection of government funding – the city might find it difficult to achieve its accelerated programme of carbon reductions.
This is also a concern among young people who supported the movement to declare a climate emergency. The motion requests that the Cabinet “take steps to proactively include young citizens in the process”, but for those involved in pushing the petition, this does not go far enough.
“We’re talking about setting up our own youth climate panel, to try to hold them to account now, to make sure things happen and action is taken – to monitor on the follow through,” says Millie Prosser, a second year student at Lancaster University, who helped to gather signatures on the petition.
“Because I think that is a little bit of a worry: That it may just be words, to some extent, and meetings behind closed doors. So continued action is good,” she said.
The amended motion that was passed unanimously tonight:
Climate Change and Lancaster City Council
A Motion for the Council Meeting on 30th January 2019
“Full Council Notes:
Lancaster City Council has already committed to reducing carbon emissions to zero by 2050, but the recent IPCC Report shows it is imperative that this target is reached much sooner. Lancaster City Council can play its role in preventing and adapting to dangerous and extreme weather events.
Extreme weather events over the last few years have presented severe challenges to property, transport, agriculture and other services in the Lancaster & Morecambe area and have led to the deaths and displacement of thousands/millions of people worldwide. Many organisations have been working tirelessly for years to try to limit climate change, but action must happen faster. Business as usual is clearly no longer an option. We need local wisdom to increase our resilience and to prepare for the climate changes already in the system.
According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 1.5C report, published in October 2018, humanity has 12 years for “ambitious action from national and sub-national authorities, civil society, the private sector, indigenous peoples and local communities” to deliver the “rapid and far-reaching transitions in land, energy, industry, buildings, transport, and cities” needed to turn this around, so we can avoid reaching tipping points where we no longer have the ability to avoid extreme weather events. It is vital that rural communities play their part in reducing carbon emissions, especially as there are potential benefits for land-use.
We recognise the current financial constraints that the council faces and expect both development and implementation of a carbon budget to need significant amounts of additional external funding. Some of the potential actions however may have a positive or neutral financial impact. Bold climate action can deliver economic benefits in terms of new jobs, economic savings and market opportunities, as well as improved well-being for people locally and worldwide.
A number of City & District Councils, together with the Mayor of London, have passed motions declaring a ‘Climate Emergency’.
We, the undersigned, therefore call on Lancaster City Council to:
1. Declare a ‘Climate Emergency’, which involves taking action outlined in the following clauses;
2. Support the setting up of a Climate Change Cabinet Liaison group immediately, involving Councillors, residents, young citizens and experts from the two Universities and other relevant parties. Over the following 12 months, the Group will review the 2010 Lancaster City Council Climate Change Strategy and help the Council develop a new carbon budget taking into account both production and consumption of emissions;
• Call on the UK Government to provide the powers, resources and help with funding to make this possible;
• Draw upon the observations, insights and reports of the Citizens’ Assembly;
• Review the Council’s Investment Strategy to give due weight to Climate Change targets in the Investment portfolio;
• Report to Full Council prior to the next budget cycle with a fully costed action plan to address this emergency to feed into the 2020 budget;
3. Request that the Cabinet member with responsibility for Climate Change, working with the Climate Change Cabinet Liaison group, convenes a Citizens’ Assembly in 2019 in order to help identify how the Council’s activities might be made net-zero carbon by 2030;
• To consider systematically the climate change impact of each area of the Council’s activities;
• To increase local resilience to climate impacts already in the system;
• To maximise local benefits of these actions in other sectors such as health, agriculture, transport and the economy;
• To support and with all other relevant agencies towards making the Lancaster District 0 Carbon within the same timescale;
• Other actions that could be recommended include (but are not restricted to): increasing the efficiency of buildings; prioritizing these measures for council housing and private sector housing to address fuel poverty; building solar and other renewable energy generating and storage plant; requiring all new housing and commercial developments to be low carbon; replacing the vehicle fleet with electric and/or hydrogen powered vehicles; switching to 100% fossil-fuel-free energy; setting up a council run energy company (i.e. Robin Hood Energy) and adapting the council’s purchasing policy; commissioning consultations with the district’s young citizens, who will be most affected by the effects of climate change;
4. Request that the Cabinet member with responsibility for climate change should take steps to proactively include young citizens in the process, being attentive of the fact that young citizens are frequently not on the electoral roll, due to being under 18, due to under-registration or due to living in Student/other temporary Accommodation;
5. Where necessary officer reports to Cabinet and Full Council to contain impact assessments on Climate Change that include Carbon Emission Appraisals, including presenting alternative approaches which reduce carbon emissions where possible;
6. Work with partners across the district, county and region to help deliver this new goal through all relevant strategies, plans and shared resources;
7. Request a report from our pension funds and investment managers on the levels of investment in the fossil fuel industry that our pensions plan and other investments have, to be delivered within 3 months;
8. In recognition of the seriousness of the financial constraints that the Council faces, and the expectation that both the development and implementation of many measures above are likely to be contingent on securing significant additional extra funding, we therefore call upon the District’s local MPs to ensure that Central government provides the powers, resources and funding to make this possible, and should write to them to seek their commitments.”
9. Recognises Lancashire County Council is setting up an Air Quality Champions Network and nominates one member to represent Lancaster City Council to this group to promote awareness and support schemes and policies that seeks to improve air quality in Lancashire.
Proposed: Councillor Kevin Frea
Seconded: Councillor Andrew Kay
Amendment proposed by: Councillor Oliver Robinson
Seconder: Councillor Amara Betts-Patel
(Section 9 proposed by Councillor Charlie Edwards)