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Shropshire Council declares climate emergency as campaigners gather- with video and pictures

By Aimee Jones | Shrewsbury | Politics | Published:

Shropshire Council has officially declared a climate emergency and set out its ambition to become carbon neutral by 2030.

The decision followed a demonstration outside Shirehall in Shrewsbury yesterday and a lengthy two-hour debate in the council chamber.

Climate change protestors gathered outside the council building at 9am in a bid to influence members on their way to the meeting.

There was singing, chanting and rousing speeches, including one from 17-year-old Belle Lewis.

She said: "I am here because I am scared of the future. I am here because CO2 levels have never been so high in the course of human history.

"Out council needs to wake up to the fact this is an existential threat to humanity. Our current way of life is unsustainable. There is hope but time is running out."

Watch video from the protest:

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Extinction Rebellion member Jackie Jones added: "Just last month I found myself in London in the back of a police van. In that police van, I shared it with a school governor, a school teacher and a woman that worked for a law firm - not your usual suspects.

"One thing that that brought us together is that we had all waited for someone, a leader, to take this issue in hand and do something. We were tired of waiting. No one was going to save us.

"Ordinary people like ourselves need to do extraordinary things. This is just the beginning."

Green Party councillor Julian Dean addressed the crowd and said there was a “snowball effect” happening.

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He said he was “very pleased” with the turnout.

Climate change protesters at Shirehall

The protestors were calling for Shropshire Council to declare that it would be carbon neutral by 2030.

The original motion from Councillor Dean Carroll to go before council suggested an end date of 2040 - but with just hours to go before the meeting, an amendment was put forward by the Lib Dem group.

A second room had to be opened in Shirehall to live stream the meeting for members of the public.

The proceedings started with a speech from Adam Shipp, from Extinction Rebellion, who told members that one million species are threatened with extinction because of climate change.

He said: "We need to take a drastic step because it has now become critical. We are told we have 12 years so this needs to be done by 2030.

"You as a council must stand up now or be rightly judged in the future. Today you have a chance to make your children proud and the children of Shropshire. Or will you just leave it for the next generation?"

Adam Shipp with a cardboard cut-out of naturalist and environmentalist David Attenborough

Mr Shipp said that he was one of those arrested in London last month and said there was a "threat to our very existence".

He said he would not get arrested unless the situation was dire, adding the "end of the natural world is on the horizon".

Mr Shipp said a carbon neutral target of 2040 was "a joke" and the council needed to take immediate action.

A number of motions were put forward during the meeting, including one from leader of the Labour party, Councillor Alan Mosley, which called for Shropshire Council to be carbon neutral by 2030.

But the motion was not passed by the council.

Leader of the council, Peter Nutting, said: "Shropshire really is a very green county and Shropshire Council does a lot of work to reduce climate change.

"This building is covered with solar panels, all of the household waste we collect goes to an incinerator, when we dig up the roads we recycle the Tarmac and re-use it.

Climate change protesters at Shirehall

"We will push as fast as we can but I am not willing to risk the economy of the county. That must be appreciated."

The motion by Councillor Carroll, which initially suggested a target of 2040 to become carbon neutral was amended last minute by the Lib Dems.

It was voted through unanimously by councillors following the addition which says the council will write to the government to encourage it to be ambitious in its plans for carbon reduction targets, aiming for national neutrality by 2030.

It also agreed to attach carbon emission appraisals to all policy reports and create a Climate Action Partnership of stakeholders and the wider community.

The council's progress will be reviewed annually.

Liberal Democrat councillor Andy Boddington said the council needed to act quicker in tackling climate change.

He said: "Council meetings are generally very boring so it is good to see so many here today. We know about climate change. We must act now," he said.

Councillor Dean added: "If you are not frightened, you are not paying attention. I want to thank the youngsters for coming out today.

Climate change protesters at Shirehall

"There are opportunities now. If we get it right we can make a difference. We can do rapid transitions. We have to."

Council Nutting told the meeting: "We are doing an awful lot as a council already.

"Our biggest problem is transport. If you live in rural Shropshire you need a car."

Labour group leader Alan Mosley said his motion was clear and that it was for the people of Shropshire. He wants a carbon champion and a climate action partnership.

But Councillor Nutting said a 2030 date was sooner than even scientists were recommending and he was worried that by setting a timescale it could hinder progress.

Climate change protesters at Shirehall

Councillor Dean Carroll, portfolio holder for climate change, said the council was “ambitious and flexible” and called on the Labour motion to be rejected. He said his motion had some changes.

Councillor Ed Bird said he did not think the problem was as bad as is being made out.

But Lib Dem leader Roger Evans said the council needed to take action now.

“We want to aim for 2030, it’s an aim, an aspiration, a target,” he said.

Councillor Carroll's motion was carried, with an amendment from the Lib Dem group.

It said that 'urgent action is needed to prioritise the climate emergency that we face' and called on the council to declare a climate emergency.

The council also agreed to ask the leader to write to the Secretary of State for the environment, food and rural affairs to encourage Government to be ambitious in its plans for carbon reduction targets, aiming for national carbon neutrality by 2030.

Government urged to take further action

Meanwhile, Shrewsbury-based environmental charity the Field Studies Council (FSC) has joined the growing band of organisations calling on the government to take further action on climate change.

The FSC, which operates 20 environmental education centres across the country and has its head office at Montford Bridge, welcomed movements by the UK Parliament to become the first in the world to make a declaration of a ‘climate emergency’.

It said it hoped the motion would trigger a ‘domino effect’ among individuals and businesses encouraging them to actively change their behaviours and make more environmentally balanced decisions.

It comes as the not for profit organisation reveals it has saved more than £500,000 on its own energy bills after switching from ‘dirty’ to green energy sources and, as it celebrates hitting ambitious carbon reduction targets.

Commitment

Mark Bolland, the FSC’s leading expert on climate change, said the charity had a longstanding and genuine commitment to carbon reduction.

He said: “For FSC, the impact of climate change is not just theoretical. Indeed some of our centres located near the coast such as Flatford Mill, Suffolk, and Slapton Ley in Devon, are being directly impacted by rising sea levels and are seeing the changes first hand.

“These centres have been working on carbon reduction for almost 30 years. They were early adopters of new technologies and have also become pioneers when it comes to changing the behaviours and actions of visitors and staff.

“For years people at these centres have been encouraged to use refillable bottles rather than disposable plastic ones; water usage is strictly timed and our consumption of meat is monitored.”

“FSC’s challenge in our 2011-20 vision was to reduce its carbon footprint per visitor by 40 per cent. This was a significant and ambitious target but with our continued efforts we are on track to reach this across all our centres, which is fantastic.”

More than 50 per cent of all energy used by the organisation now comes from renewable sources such as solar and biomass and 100 per cent of grid energy supplies to FSC is from green generation.

The introduction of a carbon management plan and investment in green technologies has also seen an estimated £568,000 saving in the organisation’s energy bills over the last eight years.

Encourage

FSC chief executive Mark Castle added: “These results should clearly be celebrated but there is no doubt that we still have a long way to go and our efforts will not stop here.

“Simply switching to a greener off grid source of energy is not an answer in itself and we will be continuing to encourage real behaviour change among all our employees, learners and also the wider community to try and reduce energy consumption.

“The latest move by MPs to declare an ‘environment and climate emergency’ could not have come at a better time and we now want the Government to take action to transform the symbolic gesture into something legally binding.

“In the meantime, the declaration will hopefully trigger the domino effect required to start educating more individuals and businesses to think about what steps they can take on a daily basis to reduce the amount of energy they use.”

For more information about the Field Studies Council visit field-studies-council.org

Additional material by Local Democracy Reporter Andrew Morris

Aimee Jones

By Aimee Jones
@aimeejones_star

Senior reporter based at the Shropshire Star's Shrewsbury office, covering Shrewsbury, North Shropshire and South Shropshire.

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