New: West Oxfordshire District Council votes unanimously to declare a climate emergency and form a citizens’ assembly to help take steps against climate change – more on this in today’s Witney Gazette: https://t.co/hQNKiYKDUV (1/2)
— James Roberts (@OxMailJamesR) June 26, 2019
NOTICE OF MOTION – CLIMATE CHANGE
Further to the notice of motion received in the names of Councillors Norman MacRae and
Alex Postan, Councillor MacRae proposed the following revised motion:-
“Climate change is one of the most urgent global challenges facing us today and the UK is taking
a leading role in addressing this issue. Investing in green industries and decarbonising our economy
we will leave the environment in a better state for the next generation.
One of the ways in which this has been achieved is by phasing out coal power, leading to the
longest time since the Industrial Revolution without using coal to generate electricity.
This Council will recognise this achievement of a reduction in the use of fossil fuel, particularly in
light of the Climate Emergency accepted by Parliament recently; commits to work towards the
reduction of emissions for the benefit of both present and future generations thus fulfilling our
Stewardship responsibility for the planet – handing it to subsequent generations in a better state
than which it was left to us!
To enable the Council to fulfil this aim, this Council adopts the following statements:
West Oxfordshire District Council recognises the serious and accelerating changes to the
world caused by climate change and therefore declares a climate and ecological
The Council is determined to be carbon neutral by 2030 and to encourage others in the
District to follow its example
The Council will form a panel of residents to assist in the formulation of its Plans
In support of this, Council authorises the Head of Paid Service, in consultation with the Cabinet
Member for the Environment, to take the necessary steps to implement the above.”
In proposing the motion, Councillor MacRae thanked Mrs Williams for her earlier
submission and reiterated the importance of acting swiftly as well as maintaining a strong
rural economy. He compared the government target of reducing carbon emissions by 80%
by the year 2050 with the statement the Council was proposing, which was to be carbon
neutral by 2030. He reminded Councillors of the continuing work to reduce the use of
single use plastics, the project to introduce electric vehicle charging points in the District,
and the ambition to encourage biodiversity and ecological systems in planning permissions.
There was also ongoing work seeking to ensure that all Council vehicles would be
emission free by 2025, as well as any taxis licensed by the authority. With regard to the
residents’ panel, Councillor MacRae advised that this would be made up of a cross section
of members of the public and randomly selected elected Members who would help set
WODC’s objectives. He was also hosting a Climate Change Forum with local sixth
formers in November this year.
In supporting the motion, Councillor Postan chose to reserve his right to speak but
advised Members that he had fifty years of practical conservation experience to call on.
Councillor Leffman was disappointed that the motion had been amended from the original
version published in the agenda, without prior notice to the opposition political groups.
However, she did feel that the proposition sounded better and thanked the proposer and
seconder for taking steps to declare an emergency.
Councillor Leffman felt the Council had been ahead of the game with recycling and stated
that it was imperative to put the Council at the front line. This could be done by further
investigation into generating electricity and investing in community projects similar to the
one at Charlbury. However, she felt strongly that a cross party working group should be
established before asking for any public input and therefore, proposed her amendment as
originally written, and as follows:
“Climate change is one of the most urgent global challenges facing us today. Accordingly, this
Council declares a state of climate emergency, and commits to work towards the reduction of
emissions for the benefit of both present and future generations by:
a) Committing to a goal of zero greenhouse gas emissions across the District by 2050 or earlier
wherever possible, and
b) Setting up a cross party working group tasked with recommending how this Council will
achieve this goal. This working group will report back to this Council by January 2020, with
concrete proposals for our next steps. These steps will include ways in which this Council will
begin to reduce its own carbon footprint with immediate effect, how we will support providers
to do the same, how we will support and invest in the generation and use of renewable energy
across this district, and how we will work with other councils, including our Publica partners, to
achieve the UK’s goal.”
Councillor Jackson seconded the amendment because he felt it said what he wanted and,
as this was not a party political issue, a cross party working group was an excellent idea.
He gave an example of an issue which could be discussed at the Working Group, namely, whether
we could be more insistent that developers install solar panels on new houses.
The Leader expressed his concern that Members were downgrading the importance of a
Citizens Assembly, which he felt was integral to ensuring all parties were given a voice. He
reiterated the importance of accepting invitations to the first panel being established by
Oxford City Council and this would be made up of many professionals, including
academics, covering a wide range of expertise.
Councillor Acock wholeheartedly supported the amendment as he felt his generation
would be worst hit by climate change and it was important to get the foundations right
before involving the public.
Councillor Enright stated that he was slightly off balance by the debate but commended
Councillor MacRae for the revised motion. He felt that a cross party working group could
work alongside a Citizens Panel and would be voting against the amendment because the
substantive motion only required tweaking.
At this point, Councillor MacRae proposed amending his motion such that the third bullet
point would read as follows, the emboldened text being additional wording:
“The Council will form a panel of residents and create a cross party working
group to report back to the Council by January 2020 to assist in the formulation
of its Plans”
This was agreed by the seconder, Councillor Postan, at which point Councillor Leffman
withdrew her amendment. Councillor Postan then reminded members of the importance
of dealing with authorities and agencies, for no commercial interest. The motion would
harness knowledge from a range of experts and specialists, drawing ideas from
communities as a whole, including our children.
On being put to the vote the motion, as amended, was carried unanimously.