Forest of Dean declares Climate Emergency
2 March 2019
Forest of Dean District Council this week became the first rural local authority in the UK to set a target of becoming carbon neutral by 2030 - twenty years ahead of its legal obligation. Councillors received a standing ovation from a packed public gallery when the motion to declare a Climate Emergency and aim to make the Council and the District carbon neutral by 2030, was passed on Thursday night.
The motion, proposed by Green Party Councillor Chris McFarling, and seconded by Labour member Di Martin, was backed by councillors from across the political spectrum.
Council leader Tim Gwillam spoke movingly of how his 10-year-old son had convinced him to support the motion.
“What sealed it for me wasn’t anything my colleagues or David Attenborough said,” Cllr Gwillam explained, “it was my boy”.
“My boy came home from primary school and asked us to do this, and he’s 10. And if he’s to have a future, then we have to do this.”
The Green Party motion was supported by local members of the Extinction Rebellion group; and a statement from the group was read to his council colleagues by Green Party councillor Sid Phelps.
Four local authorities have so far made the same pledge since the UN declared a climate emergency four weeks ago. In all places the motions were proposed by Green Party councillors, but drew unanimous cross-party support.
Before the debate, the council heard a question from a local 15-year-old, Milo Moore, who on behalf of young people of the district, asked the council what action they would take to secure his future.
The question, read out by Milo Moore’s father, (as only registered voters can address the council in person), asked: “I am fifteen years old. I need to start planning my life, but how can I make plans when the climate is changing so rapidly and the future looks so uncertain?”
“I want to know what actions the council will take to reduce the district’s CO2 emissions. Will you be the generation that acted, that grasped the enormity and the urgency with just twelve years to go? What will be your legacy? What would you like it to be?”
Several members referred to the speech made by Sir David Attenborough at the UN climate summit in Poland this week. On Monday Sir David called on the world’s leaders and decision-makers to act immediately. “The continuation of civilisations and the natural world upon which we depend is in your hands,” he declared.
Councillor McFarling told the council that the consequences of global temperature rising above 1.5°C are so severe that preventing this from happening must be humanity’s number one priority. Millions are already being affected, with the forest fires in California being just one recent example. Bringing the message home, he warned that repeated heatwaves could also turn the Forest of Dean into “a tinderbox” with catastrophic consequences.
Summing up his proposal to the council he said: "I have a dream. That we think globally and act locally. I move this motion"
Full Council notes:
- The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC's) Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C, published just 8 weeks ago, describes the enormous harm that a 2°C rise is likely to cause compared to a 1.5°C rise. It informed us that limiting Global Warming to 1.5°C may still be possible with ambitious action from national and sub-national authorities, civil society, the private sector, indigenous peoples and local communities. Ref 1,2.
- The World Meteorological Organisation in their annual bulletin (Nov2018) state that carbon dioxide levels have hit new highs of 405.5 parts per million (ppm) in 2017, up from 403.3 ppm in 2016 and 400.1 ppm in 2015, levels not seen for millions of years. They warn that “the window of opportunity for action is almost closed.”
- The world’s leading climate scientists warn that there are only a dozen years for global warming to be kept to a maximum of 1.5oC, beyond which even half a degree will significantly worsen the risks of drought, floods, extreme heat and poverty for hundreds of millions of people.
- Global temperatures have already increased by 1 degree Celsius from pre-industrial levels and they are still rising rapidly, with impacts being felt around the world today.
- The world is on track to overshoot the Paris agreement’s 1.5°c limit before 2050;
- In order to reduce the very real risk of runaway global warming and the dramatic impacts on the global environment, society and us as individuals, it is imperative that we take the boldest steps to reduce our CO2 emissions from their current 6.5 tonnes per person per year to less than 2 tonnes as soon as possible; Ref 3
- Society needs to help individuals reduce their own carbon emissions by changing its laws, taxation, infrastructure, policies and plans, to make low carbon living easier and the new norm;
- Carbon emissions result from both production and consumption;
- For these reasons, authorities around the country and the world are responding by declaring a ‘Climate Emergency’ and committing resources to address this emergency now.
Full Council acknowledges that:
- The consequences of global temperature rising above 1.5°C are so severe that preventing this from happening must be humanity’s number one priority;
- To meet the urgent challenge outlined in the IPCC report, we all have a part to play. It is important for us all in the Forest of Dean that the local district council commits to carbon neutrality as quickly as possible; FoDDC needs to take a lead and act now.
- Bold climate action can deliver economic benefits in terms of new jobs, economic savings and market opportunities (as well as improved well-being for people worldwide).
- The Forest of Dean is well-placed to champion rural decarbonisation. The district has huge carbon sequestration potential with 27,000 acres of public forest estate (21% of the total district area), and abundant clean renewable resources (solar, wind and tidal lagoons) to become 100% self-reliant on zero-carbon energy.
Full Council calls on Council to:
- Declare a ‘Climate Emergency’.
- Aim to make the Forest of Dean District Council and the district carbon neutral by 2030, taking into account both production and consumption emissions (scope 1, 2 and 3), Ref 4.
- Call on the government and other relevant organisations and partners to provide the powers, resources and funding to successfully meet the 2030 target.
- Subject to receiving the necessary powers, resources and funding to:
- Work with other councils and organisations (both within the UK and internationally) to determine and implement best practice methods to limit Global Warming to less than 1.5°C; Ref 5 and
- Ask the Leader to initiate work with partners across the district, county and region to help deliver carbon neutrality through all relevant strategies and plans.
- World Resources Institute: https://www.wri.org/blog/2018/10/8-things-you-need-know-about-ipcc-15-c-report
- The IPCC’s Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5C: https://www.ipcc.ch/report/sr15/
- Fossil CO2 & GHG emissions of all world countries, 2017: http://edgar.jrc.ec.europa.eu/overview.php?v=CO2andGHG1970-2016&dst=GHGpc
- Scope 1, 2 and 3 of the Greenhouse Gas Protocol explained: https://www.carbontrust.com/resources/faqs/services/scope-3-indirect-carbon-emissions
- Bristol https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/nov/14/bristol-plans-to-become-carbon-neutral-by-2030?
- Manchester https://secure.manchester.gov.uk/news/article/8076/ambitious_climate_change_target_pr oposed_for_manchester?