Climate change emergency declared in Welwyn Hatfield with 2030 target

PUBLISHED: 16:17 20 June 2019 | UPDATED: 14:14 24 June 2019

The whole council, at the meeting yesterday, voted in favour of declaring a climate emergency. Picture: Charlotte McLaughlin.

The whole council, at the meeting yesterday, voted in favour of declaring a climate emergency. Picture: Charlotte McLaughlin.

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Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council has voted unanimously to declare a climate emergency.

Tony Kingsbury, leader of the council, speaking at the AGM last month. Picture: WHBC.Tony Kingsbury, leader of the council, speaking at the AGM last month. Picture: WHBC.

The motion - put forward by the Liberal Democrats - was amended by the Conservative leader of the council to include a £50,000 fund for local organisations in the borough.

Cllr Tony Kingsbury said there could be more money added to this fund in the future, which would provide support for both public and private bodies,

"Climate change is an issue for us all," he told an extraordinary meeting of the council last night.

"And in some ways more of an issue for the younger generation.

Welwyn Hatfield Liberal Democrats sit at the back on the right. Picture: Charlotte McLaughlin.Welwyn Hatfield Liberal Democrats sit at the back on the right. Picture: Charlotte McLaughlin.

"The council has initiatives to [address] climate change. But we can and we will do more."

The criteria to access the new fund would be established by a new cross-party WHBC Climatic Change Group, which would then be approved by the council's cabinet, under the amendment added by Cllr Kingsbury.

The motion, as set out by the Lib Dem WHBC leader Malcolm Cowan, calls for the climate emergency as "the recent 2018 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report states that we have just 12 years to act on climate change if global temperature rises are to be kept within the recommended 1.5 degrees Celsius."

In light of this it asked the council to introduce an action plan to achieve a target of zero carbon emissions by 2030.

Welwyn Hatfield Labour leader Cllr Kieran Thorpe. Picture: Charlotte McLaughlin.Welwyn Hatfield Labour leader Cllr Kieran Thorpe. Picture: Charlotte McLaughlin.

Another amendment, added by the Conservatives, changed the original Lib Dem motion to "reduce with a target for net zero carbon emissions by 2030, or a justification for a later date if the review finds this unachievable".

This means that Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council will not be required to reduce emissions to net zero by 2030.

All councillors, made up of Labour, Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats, unanimously agreed to these amendments at the council meeting with no objections.

The borough's Labour leader, Cllr Kieran Thorpe, also added his own amendment to hold a review of the council's procurement policies.

Welwyn Hatfield Green Party leader Marc Sheinman, who does not have a seat on the council, holds up the same sign he has carried out to every meeting. Picture: Charlotte McLaughlin.Welwyn Hatfield Green Party leader Marc Sheinman, who does not have a seat on the council, holds up the same sign he has carried out to every meeting. Picture: Charlotte McLaughlin.

This would include "an aspiration to increase the weight when scoring in the tender process - bids from businesses who display clear commitment to reducing their own carbon footprint".

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He explained, in a speech last night, "that tackling climate change isn't just a cost to bear".

"It's not just about regulations, fines and punishments," he said.

Local campaigners holding up signs at the council extraordinary meeting. Picture: Charlotte McLaughlin.Local campaigners holding up signs at the council extraordinary meeting. Picture: Charlotte McLaughlin.

"It's an opportunity to create new industries, new businesses and new employment that can focus on repairing the damage that's been allowed to be done to the environment."

This was also added to the final document with unanimous approval.

"We accept the amendment and look forward to how the procurement officer makes it work," said Cllr Cowan.

Regardless of the camaraderie, with councillors on all sides agreeing to the motion and various amendments, one Lib Dem supporter did walk out of the meeting due to comments made by Labour councillor Lenny Brandon.

In his speech, Cllr Brandon alleged Welwyn Hatfield Lib Dems are constantly "bombarding" the borough's residents with unwanted mail.

"We [at Hatfield Town Council] also had to postpone a full council meeting tonight so me and [deputy leader of Hatfield] Caron [Juggins, a Conservative councillor,] could be here tonight," added Cllr Brandon, a WHBC Labour councillor and Hatfield Town Council's leader.

Cllr Kingsbury also pointed out the motion could have been raised at a full council meeting in July.

Another Conservative councillor, Fiona Thompson, brought up the issue of air quality in Welwyn Hatfield.

"We know climate change is a risk to human health," said Cllr Thompson.

WHBC, according to her, is regularly checking the air quality in the borough and is working with NOx, a Hertfordshire and Bedfordshrie group, to reduce emissions of the gas that is blamed for respiratory problems.

A measurement, updated today on the air quality England website, showed that rates of pollution were low.

She also said addressing climate change was not just a matter of the council and government.

"We need to work with residents to do there bit," said Cllr Thompson.

The council has published the full amended document here.

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