PRESS RELEASE – 26 June 2109

Horsham District Council took a significant step this evening in agreeing a motion to increase action on climate change, as well as on a range of other environmental issues from single use plastics to biodiversity.

There was a high degree of consensus in the chamber over the need to do much more to address the climate emergency and ecological crisis the world is facing. “To do nothing, is not an option”, said Liberal Democrat Councillor, David Skipp, in proposing the motion.

“We are seeing this as a win for the climate and for the wider environment,” said Dr Sally Barnard, Coordinator of the South East Climate Alliance, which has been lobbying councils across West Sussex and neighbouring counties to declare a climate emergency. “However, the wording could have been stronger, and it lacked clear targets and timescales.”

A proposal by Councillor Francis Haigh to designate 2020 as a ‘Year of Green Action’ was made during the debate and welcomed by Councillor Ray Dawe, Leader of the Conservative Group. Her suggestion was to model this on from this year’s highly successful Horsham Year of Culture. It could involve the Council engaging with environment and community groups across the District, and helping them to work together on a whole range of green projects. “This is an inspired idea,” commented Dr Barnard. “This is exactly the kind of action we need to bring people together and get ideas flowing. We hope the Council will take it up.”

Climate campaigners in the packed public gallery, and many councillors, were frustrated that quibbling over wording prevented a unanimous vote on the motion. This was despite efforts to reach some compromise phrasing and pleas from several council members that climate change was too important to be seen as a party political issue.

In the end, a substantially rewritten amendment tabled by Conservative Cabinet Member, Philip Circus, was passed with 8 abstentions. This agrees we are facing a climate and environmental emergency and commits the Council to “developing and auditing the council’s activities to see what further practical changes, it the form of a plan, we can implement to reflect best environmental practice and work towards a net zero carbon target.”

“The importance of tonight’s vote will hinge on what happens next,” said Dr Barnard. “SECA calls for a timescale and action plan to be announced as soon as possible, with details of how this new commitment will be brought into the heart of council business.”

Here is a link to the full text of the final amended motion.

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