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Declaring a Climate Emergency in Folkestone and Hythe

July 26, 2019 2:54 PM
By Tim Prater, Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group on Folkestone and Hythe District Council
Sandgate Esplanade road and pavement flooding (Claire Hudson (www.twitter.com/clairehudson73))

Local Flooding

Folkestone and Hythe District Council passed a motion declaring a Climate Emergency on Wednesday night. The motion was moved by the Green Party, with support from the Lib Dems and Labour. As ever. to win the debate, we'd need to persuade a member of the administration or two to back us, but we started full of hope...

There are now over 170 Councils that have declared a Climate Emergency, as listed at https://www.climateemergency.uk/blog/list-of-councils/ - with Councils controlled by every Party and none having done so. It's a declaration that we understand the huge urgency of the Climate Change Agenda, will do our bit to bring our Council to Carbon-zero by 2030, and show local leadership and push and lobby others to match our resolve. Some people ask if we can afford it: many beleive we can't afford not to.

In the end, the motion received unanimous support, but in a really odd way. I thought you might be interested in hearing the inside story of the meeting, and what happened.

The motion had 9 actions (you can find the full motion with the agenda on the Council website at http://www.folkestone-hythe.gov.uk/moderngov/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=122&MId=4581)

Full council moves to:

1. Declare that we are in a state of climate and ecological emergency.
2. Commit to reduce Folkestone and Hythe District Council's estate and operations to zero net carbon by 2030.
3. Ensure that all strategic decisions, policy, budgets, investments, contracts, approaches to planning decisions and the council's own developments are in line with a shift to zero carbon by 2030.
4. Ensure that all future council reports, where appropriate, include a climate impact statement.
5. To develop a strategy for Folkestone and Hythe District Council to play a leadership role in promoting community, public and business partnerships for this Carbon Neutral 2030 Commitment throughout the District.
6. To achieve this, create a Carbon Action Plan based on practical frameworks and advice such as provided by the Carbon Trust.
7. Establish a cross-party working group of full council to draw up, steer and monitor progress of the Carbon Action Plan, reporting back to full council in 6 months, then annually.
8. Call on the UK Government to provide the powers, resources and help with funding to make this possible, and ask local MPs to do likewise.
9. Request that Cabinet shows leadership and adopts the matters raised in 1 - 8.

After the motion was moved by Green Councillor Georgina Trelour, a Tory amendment was submitted, effectively saying "I don't object to declaring an emergency, but we must think of the budget first, we should refer this to Overview and Scrutiny".

He basically moved adding ", and refer this for consideration to Overview and Scrutiny Committee" at the end of line one.

Raging debate (you can't declare an emergency by referring something to a committee), but Tory majority passed the amendment. If you would like to watch the webcast of the debate, it's online at https://folkestone-hythe.public-i.tv/core/portal/webcast_interactive/420390/start_time/8315000?force_language_code=en_GB

Glum faces all around, assuming that meant that the motion had pretty much been turned from a long list of actions into one short one: refer this thing to a committee with no real powers to make it happen. However, l then called a Point of Order asking for the substantive motion to now be read out, and then pushing on the wording now, as I had heard the addition moved, but heard NO suggestion of deletion of any of the other content.

And neither had the Officers. Because no such suggestion was made (something to the suprise of the Coservatives that moved it). After some to and fro, it was agreed that the substantive motion (that we were now to vote on) was now the motion as above, with a few additional words on line 1, and all of lines 2-9 intact.

Georgina then summates the motion, and the Chair confirms the substantive motion is now as above but with line 1 extended to add the reference to Overview and Scrutiny but leaving in lines 2-9.

Motion is passed unanimously, and Folkestone and Hythe have declared a Climate Emergency (aiming for Carbon-zero by 2030).