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Council leader criticised for ending climate change debate

Council leader criticised for ending climate change debate

Published by Grace Mcgachy with contributions by Local Democracy Reporter Jessica Frank-Keyes
5:35am 24th January 2020. (Updated at 5:44am 24th January 2020)

A council leader has been accused of paying “lip service” to environmental issues after a motion on climate change was not debated at a meeting.

West Norfolk council was set to debate a motion on taking “timely actions necessary to prevent dangerous climate change”, which highlighted that the actions were an “inescapable legal obligation” due to a Dutch court ruling.

But at the meeting yesterday (23rd Jan), leader Brian Long called for the motion to be debated at a cabinet meeting, closing down the discussion on the item.

climate change co2


The motion, proposed by Green councillor Michael De Whalley, called on the council to “take such timely actions necessary to prevent dangerous climate change, as our fair share of the UK’s efforts to limit global temperature increase to 1.5C (as per our commitments to the Paris Agreement), which is not only morally and politically the right thing to do but that it is also an inescapable legal obligation”.

Speaking at the meeting, he said:

“I for one do not want to see my council and borough dragged through the courts as a test case.

Far better that we accept our responsibility for doing our share.

Let us be remembered as the people who did the right thing.”

But the motion proposed by Mr Long superceded the debate.

The vote to move the discussion to the cabinet was passed by 27 votes to 20, with no abstentions, to shouts of “shocking” from the public gallery, where climate activists stood with a sign.

After the vote, Jo Rust, Labour councillor who seconded Mr De Whalley’s item, said:

“It’s really disappointing. We can’t seem to take the steps that are needed.

I have a sense that it’s just paying lip service to it.

We’ve got young people and young councillors that deserve better than this.”

summer thermometer


Mr De Whalley said:

“It comes as no surprise but it is a landmark ruling that affects every country.”

He said his next step would be seeking advice from the Local Government Association (LGA).

Afterwards, Mr Long said:

“I’m glad they’re disappointed.

They need to understand the way the council works.

All it does it waste public money.

Those members of the public [the activists] are not members of the public. They’re members of a particular faction who want us to do everything we can to be as green as possible as quickly as possible.

We won’t compromise our decision-making process.”

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