Climate Change Action Needed Urgently by One and All

Coverack Flood by Adam Powers

Photo by Adam Powers showing the road at Coverack being ripped up in the flash storm of 18 July 2017

These are the words I said in the debate on Climate Change at Full Council on 22 January 2019.

This motion gives weight and urgency to the Council doing the right thing for our local environment and the wider planet; to continue with our record to date. The Environment Team has placed climate change on our risk register and I have agreed with them that it must move to red. This Council therefore needs to act to mitigate the risk. We’ll not be acting alone as partners at the Local Nature Partnership and the South West Regional Flood Forum are considering the challenges and will work with us.

The IPCC report tells us – climate change is already here and having effects – it’s melting sea ice and thawing permafrost in the Arctic, killing off coral reefs in our oceans, causing heat waves, heavy rains and mega-disasters.

Here in Cornwall, on 18 July 2017 the people of Coverack experienced the most intense short duration rainfall ever recorded in the British Isles. It was outside the bounds of statistical predictions. It occurred in a present day situation, of around 1°C temperature rise. A 1.5°C rise in temperature will likely cause this type of event more often. A temperature increase of 2°C, would likely make extreme weather events, likes Coverack, commonplace.

The IPCC report explains the consequences of continuing to produce and consume as we do today, saying: “There is high confidence that neither adaptation nor mitigation alone can avoid all climate change impacts.”

In Cornwall our Coastal communities are under significant pressure due to increased storminess and pressure surges relating to climate change. Plus, sea levels are rising. Coastal erosion is expected to accelerate for all the same reasons.

Cliff Fall Newquay June 2018

Photo by Rob Booth of cliff fall in Newquay, June 2018

Video of Cliff collapse in December, in Bude

We cannot compete with the power of nature with money and concrete alone. Our Climate change planning has to assist our coastal communities to make appropriate and realistic plans. We have up to 12 years to move away from ‘business as usual’, to ensure we play our part to keep global temperature rises to within 1.5°C. Scientists warn that extreme weather events will have a disproportionate toll on poor, weak and elderly people.

As portfolio holder, I want to reassure everyone that Cornwall Council will stand alongside the many Councils declaring a climate change emergency. We need a united groundswell across the country that the Government will find hard to ignore. I need those in the gallery to mobilise their communities, alongside us, at Cornwall Council, who are already taking action and will draw up a Climate Change plan. The planet is running out of time. We cannot leave this to the next Government, the next Council administration – we must act now.

David Attenborough brought the plastic pollution of our world’s oceans into our living rooms. A huge global challenge but individual families, communities and towns did not shrug their shoulders and say “this is too big for me to solve” individuals, businesses and councils committed to be (single-use) plastic free and that groundswell has heavily influenced our Governments recently published waste and resources strategy. We need a similar groundswell of action to influence global decision makers on Climate Change.

David Attenborough spoke in Poland on Climate change, saying “It could lead to the collapse of civilisation and the extinction of “much of the natural world.”” He went on to say “Right now, we are facing a man-made disaster of a global scale. The world’s experts have spoken. Their message is clear. Time is running out. They want you, the decision-makers, to act now.”

I hope that by sharing with you my understanding of our situation, you will support this motion and you will support me in my Cabinet role, as protector of our Environment, to act boldly in addressing the climate change challenges.

MOTION PASSED:

This Council resolves to:

1. Declare a ‘climate emergency’.

(‘Climate Emergency’ is an internationally recognised declaration being used by Councils and other Local Authorities, predominantly in the UK, Australia and the USA, to publicly declare concern over the IPCCs findings which recognise the adverse global impact of the changing climate. The declaration also serves as a commitment to take urgent action and aspire towards carbon neutrality.)

2. Call on Westminster to provide the powers and resources necessary to achieve the target for Cornwall to become carbon neutral by 2030 and commit to work with other Councils with similar ambitions;

3. provide adequate staff time and leadership to prepare a report within six months to establish how Cornwall can sufficiently reduce carbon emissions through energy efficiency, low-carbon fuels and investment in renewable energy and other Council strategies, plans and contracts within a timescale which is consistent with an ambition to restrain Global Warming to 1.5⁰C. This will draw together the actions Cornwall Council is already and will continue to take; and where possible, outline partners’ commitments to move towards a carbon neutral Cornwall by 2030.”