Monday, 06 April 2020

Campaigners happy as council declares climate emergency

ded as councillors agreed to declare a climate emergency in Henley.

About 12 people from the local branch of Extinction Rebellion were in the public gallery for the meeting of the town council which unanimously approved the motion put forward by Councillor Michelle Thomas.

This followed months of research by the council’s climate emergency working group to find ways to reduce the town’s carbon footprint.

Activist Julia Lacey, from Hambleden, spoke during the public participation part of the meeting.

She said: “The climate and ecological emergency is the biggest threat that all living things have faced.

“It is devastating vast communities across the world and wiping out 200 species a day.

“We cannot afford to ignore these effects and carry on with business as usual. What we do now is very important. We are in a race against time.

“We strongly recommend that this council tackles the climate and ecological emergency in the best interest of the global and local community.”

Anne Alridge, from Watlington, said: “I am here on behalf of my grandchildren. I couldn’t look them in the eyes if I didn’t do whatever is in my power to tackle the climate emergency and make sure they have a life ahead of them.”

The working group, which was established last year, is hoping to make Henley carbon neutral by 2030. It is working on a number of projects, including installing charging points for electric cars, “retrofitting” public buildings to make them more efficient and planting thousands of trees.

Cllr Thomas said the council had been careful not to rush into the idea of declaring a climate emergency without exploring how it would be able to deliver on its promise.

She added: “The climate emergency working group has moved forward very quickly and proposed many practical and achievable solutions. I would suggest that we update the neighbourhood plan to make sure any housing is compliant with our objectives.

“I have done quite a lot of research on this myself. I didn’t want to just ride the crest of this wave that we have got going through this country and the rest of the world. Other councils are actually looking to us as an example, which is really inspiring.”

Last June, the council’s planning committee received a presentation from Greener Henley on declaring an emergency.

This was based on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s report, which recommended that action be taken to reduce emissions to reverse global warming.

The committee recommended that an emergency was acknowledged and that the working group be set up.

Parliament declared a climate emergency last year and similar declarations have been made by other local councils.

Councillor Stefan Gawrysiak said South Oxfordshire District Council, of which he is a member, had a climate working group and had passed a resolution to make all its operations carbon neutral by 2025.

He said: “By 2030 all the district will be carbon neutral, which is a bigger challenge. We are already studying what the baseline of carbon is for the district so we can say we have reduced it to zero.

“I would like to say that the district council is looking to Henley because our working group is streets ahead of any other partnership in the district.

“As well as declaring a climate emergency, it has got to be backed up by practical measures. There is no point just having words — we have to say what we are going to do.”

David Dickie, of Clean Air for Henley, welcomed the council’s decision to declare a climate emergency.

He said he had visited the six primary schools in Henley and found 20 per cent of pupils needed an inhaler.

Mr Dickie added: “Air pollution has provided us with a health issue.

“This number is too high and the teachers have told me it is rising.”

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