Friday, 15 February 2019

Candidates urged to campaign on climate

Henley Town Council by-election confirmed

CAMPAIGNERS are calling on all prospective Henley councillors to put climate change at the top of the agenda.

Henley in Transition will lobby candidates in the forthcoming town and district council elections to put their names to a motion declaring a “climate emergency”.

It will then urge the public to back only those candidates who support it at the ballot box on May 2.

The group then wants a motion to be passed at the first full meeting of the new town council agreeing to:

• Assess all future policies for their impact on the climate.

• Commit the town to becoming zero carbon by 2030.

Henley in Transition is concerned about global warming and says urgent action is needed locally, as well as across the world, to avert “catastrophic” climate change.

Chairman Dave McEwen said: “We think climate change should be top of the agenda. I know there are a lot of priorities for a council but the thing about calling this a climate emergency is it’s now urgent.

“We would look to get cross-party support on this — we don’t see it as party political thing at all.

“Having approached the candidates and found out what their attitude is, it’s publicising those who co-operate with the idea going forward as well as those who say ‘no, we can’t support it’ and saying to the Henley public ‘vote for the people who support it.’

“It can’t just be symbolic and nobody does anything — we need to be looking at policies on housing and transport.”

Mr McEwen and Patrick Fleming, treasurer of Henley in Transition, came up with idea of a motion after hearing about how it had been used in Australia at a climate change conference in Oxford last month.

Mr McEwen said: “What governments have said they will do at the moment is just not good enough. We thought, ‘there’s an election coming up, that’s the time to do it’.

“We’re planning to have new housing in Henley and it’s time to say we have got to make these new houses energy efficient and with solar panels on the roofs so we can get as close to this zero carbon house.

“It’s also still pushing things like the problems with air pollution, which is going to be emission from cars. We want electric cars or the gas-powered bus which we have here.

“There are going to be issues about food supply and I’d like to see more allotments and land for smallholders to grow produce for the town and a bigger community orchard of some sort — we have got a little one.”

Mr McEwen also called for further “greening” of Henley by planting more trees.

He said: “The technology is all there, that’s the crazy thing, and when you’re building an estate of houses that’s the time you need to be putting it right.

“We have got very involved in campaigns on Clean Air for Henley and plastic reduction, bringing environmental science to schools, maintaining and adding to green spaces in Henley and many more.

“In spite of running many successful projects, a community project to install low cost solar panels and an infra-red survey to show residents where the heat was being lost from their homes, for example, the numbers involved are tiny in comparison with the scale of the problem.

“It’s going to be really difficult because what you’re talking about is behaviour change at the end of the day and we’re all creatures of habit.”

Mr Fleming said: “We have got a climate emergency and if we don’t recognise it and do something about it, it will become a climate catastrophe.

“Over the last million years there have been five extinctions and we’re heading toward the sixth.

“By getting in at grassroots that means us as individuals in Henley and our councillors in Henley, South Oxfordshire and Oxfordshire can actually get stuff done straight away.

“The really worrying thing is the cost of our food has already started to go up because of climate change and it will continue to do so.

“The practical solution is to try to fly less, buy electric cars, look at your home and the level you heat it to and look at the ways you can insulate it.

“Most of our homes are going to be around in 2050 so we have to do something about the houses we live in.

“For me, it’s a long haul. It’s an ongoing journey to try to bring awareness so people can see the decisions they are taking now and what effect they will have on the lives of our kids.”

Henley in Transition will hold a meeting to discuss the climate emergency and what can be done about it at the town hall on February 20 at 7.30pm.

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