Last night I joined with my fellow Greenwich councillors in voting for the Council to declare a Climate Emergency. And in a rare occurance at the Town Hall, the Conservative Group actually won a vote, passing our our amendment which will significantly strengthen the Council’s actions – and gives us further opportunities to help shape them, through a new Greenwich Carbon Neutral Plan.
For background, the motion on last night’s agenda declaring a Climate Emergency was brought forward by the Cabinet Member for Air Quality, Cllr Denise Scott-McDonald – and follows more than 90 such motions passed by other local authorities in recent months. To Denise’s credit, she brought forward a substantive motion that went beyond just words to actions (as I said last night, declaring a Climate Emergency sounds pretty good, but there’s always a risk with this kind of thing of simply virtue signalling – a trap she very much avoided).
The motion was centred on a pledge for the Royal Borough of Greenwich to become carbon neutral by 2030 – and of course comes in the same week as Theresa May legislated for the UK to target net zero carbon emissions by 2050, making us the first major country to commit to ending our (ongoing) contribution to global warming.
Our successful Opposition amendment strengthened last night’s motion by making 3 key additions:
- A 2030 “or earlier if possible” aspiration, as well as an important high-level commitment that the Council will take steps to avoid adverse impacts on vulnerable residents in delivering this pledge
- A requirement for a Greenwich Carbon Neutral Plan to be developed and crucially, voted on at the Full Council meeting in January 2020
- A Greenwich Climate Emergency Annual Report, to be published every January between 2021 and 2030 – so that councillors, residents and campaigners can hold the Council to account for its progress
As I said in the debate last night (which you can watch here), climate isn’t an issue of Left or Right, Labour or Conservative – and I’m glad that both parties were able to vote together on this.
A greater opportunity to contribute
The full significance of the success of our amendment last night, though, might not have been immediately apparent from the debate.
For us, in drafting our amendment, the key part was really that second bullet point above. Not only will there now be a new, tangible Greenwich Carbon Neutral Plan to turn words into actions – but the contents of this Plan has to be debated and voted on by us all as councillors in January.
The idea was to ‘bake in’ a further opportunity to help shape and strengthen the Council’s response to the Climate Emergency that we have just declared.
As a Group we already have a long list of previous proposals – from the green ideas powerhouse that is Cllr Matt Clare, our environment spokesperson – that we’ll now be hoping to get included in the Plan. We hope we’ll be able to do this by contributing to the process as council Officers work to develop the plan now – and if necessary, we will bring further amendments at that January meeting, too.
Our previous suggestions include a sponsorship programme for street trees and green infrastructure, a one-way car share scheme, water butts on the side of council buildings and many more ideas – large and small.
But we want to hear others people’s ideas too…
So if you think the Council should be doing X on climate, and isn’t – now’s your chance! Let us know by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org and we will consider all ideas we receive…
We won’t agree on everything!
Finally, and on a related note – last night I was pleased to praise local campaigners, including those involved with Extinction Rebellion, who I acknowledge have very successfully raised this issue high on the political agenda locally and nationally (however much I have often disagreed with some of their tactics).
There is much on which we agree (as we did on opposing plans for the Cruise Liner Terminal). We will not, of course, agree on everything (not least on the Silvertown Tunnel…) and I know that even the amended motion we passed last night does not go far enough in the eyes of many.
I hope that everyone can see from last night’s debate, however, that the Conservative Group I lead is serious about working constructively to ensure the Council does more to protect and improve our environment. This was a core theme of our manifesto for a strong opposition at the 2018 elections, and we meant it.
Matt Clare and I, and the rest of our Opposition colleagues, are looking forward to discussing people’s ideas for the Greenwich Carbon Neutral Plan, in advance of the January vote we just secured. And after last night’s outbreak of cross-party concensus, you never know – we might just be able to make some of them happen…
Submit your ideas for what we should push for in the new Greenwich Carbon Neutral Plan by emailing email@example.com.