There’s no single definition for what a climate emergency is, but dozens of councils and other local areas around the UK have declared one, with common targets including being carbon-neutral by 2030.
Environmentalism was a key plank of the campaign of Labour’s Jamie Driscoll, as he successfully bid to become the first North of Tyne Mayor earlier this month and, as promised, he declared a climate-change emergency on his first day in office.
He explained the reasons behind it as ‘setting down a benchmark so people realise it’s not a nice-to-have, it’s an essential, because that’s going to involve a lot of work from everyone – constituent authorities, the public sector, businesses, civil society’.
He added: “Unless we recognise that this has to change, that we have to cut our emissions, then we will be facing more and more extreme weather events, rising sea levels and degradation of farmland.
“That’s something that nobody wants, but unless you get on and do it, it won’t happen. What we will be doing as the North of Tyne authority is convening them and acting as the support structure to get that plan in place.”
Now, local activist group Climate Action Northumberland (CAN) is calling on Northumberland County Council to do its part and declare a climate emergency.
The group has also launched a petition, which has so far been signed by more than 370 people, and it is urging residents to add their names – https://tinyurl.com/y6xfh9o2
Sarah Smith, from CAN, said: “This is the biggest threat humans have ever faced and catastrophic climate breakdown is predicted to occur within the lifetimes of people alive today if action isn’t taken.
“There is still time to act, but this needs to be recognised as the emergency that it is as only urgent action will be good enough. What we do in the next decade will decide the future of life on earth for thousands of years to come.”
Alongside the declaration, the council must also take concrete action to confront the crisis, the campaigners say, and they have therefore proposed five action points for the authority:
A pledge to make Northumberland County Council carbon neutral by 2030, taking into account both production and consumption emissions;
Call on Westminster to provide the powers and resources to make this 2030 target possible;
Continue to work with partners across the county and region to deliver this new goal through all relevant strategies;
To report to council within six months with an action plan identifying what steps the council will take to address this emergency;
To establish a committee of people representing local groups to oversee the action plan.
A Northumberland County Council spokeswoman said: “The council takes its climate and environmental responsibilities very seriously across all areas of its business.
“A report for the council’s cabinet summarising the good work that’s going on in these areas is in the final stages of preparation.
“The petition itself will be fully considered by the council in due course.”
Ben O'Connell, Local Democracy Reporting Service