After heckling and swearing from the public gallery, a round of applause, and the confession of one councillor that he was a “climate sceptic”, the Isle of Wight Council has agreed to an amendment and declared a Climate Emergency.
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However, calls for the creation of a climate change board of experts and a pledge to cut carbon emissions to zero by 2030 were thrown out, in changes to the original motion.
Instead the Isle of Wight Council agreed to “aim” to cut emissions to zero.
Councillor Michael Lilley asked the Isle of Wight Council to take the step months after the local authority said it had plenty of other measures in place to help make the Isle of Wight greener.
The winning amendment (scroll down to read it in full) was proposed by Cllr Steve Hastings, written jointly with Cllr Lilley.
It nearly did not get discussed at all, at Wednesday night’s meeting at County Hall. The move was called “unconstitutional” by Councillor Chris Whitehouse, who said it should never have reached a meeting of the full council. However council officer Helen Miles told the meeting that the matter was “not unlawful” and could be considered by members.
Councillor Whitehouse also proposed a number of amendments, on the grounds that the motion relied on science that he said councillors were “not competent on”. His comments were supported by a number of councillors including Council Leader Dave Stewart, but prompted a member in the public gallery to shout out a swear word. Cllr Whitehouse said he was not prepared to support a “stupid slogan”, but agreed that there “probably” was evidence for climate change”.
The Lilley/Hastings amendment said,
During the debate, Councillor Stuart Hutchinson described himself as a “climate sceptic”, pointing to predictions (including by Al Gore and Prince Charles) that he felt had not come to fruition over climate change. He said the planet was moving out of ice age and we did not have the tools to stop it, except for cutting carbon emissions.
Cllr Vanessa Churchman said saving the planet was down to individuals and said she was already using baking soda and vinegar for cleaning her house.
Cllr Lilley told the meeting,
“July is on track to become on of the earth’s hottest months on records. 171 unitary county and district councils have signed up to a climate emergency. The UK Parliament has done so. A significant number are Conservative administrations. There is no debate about whether the climate is changing.”
Authorities in Surrey, Kent, Hampshire, Sussex and West Hertfordshire are among those to have already agreed to declare a climate emergency, said Cllr Lilley.
Before Tuesday night’s meeting at County Hall got underway, campaigners gathered outside calling for action on climate change.
Earlier in the day, climate change protesters on The Mall in London disrupted the journey of new PM Boris Johnson has he headed to meet the Queen.
A decision to declare a climate emergency was supported by 23 councillors with 6 against and 6 abstentions. Isle of Wight Council Leader Dave Stewart was among those to oppose the motion.
In response pressure group Extinction Rebellion said,
“Extinction rebellion warmly welcome the declaration of a climate emergency on the Isle of Wight, we look forward to seeing the council prepare plans for radically reducing the carbon footprint of the island in line with scientific recommendations. However, we are concerned that the motion was not passed unanimously as has been the case in most councils and was passed without the support of the leader of the council. We hope that this does not impact on the democratically mandated steps outlined in the text of the motion.”