Climate emergency declared by Falkirk Council

Falkirk Council has declared a climate emergency as councillors from all sides of the chamber agreed to redouble their efforts to tackle climate change.

By Kirsty Paterson
Thursday, 5th September 2019, 5:00 pm

This included a pledge to make Grangemouth its first carbon neutral town and the area ‘net zero’ by 2030.

The SNP’s environment spokesman Councillor Paul Garner told the meeting: “While the problem can seem overwhelming, we can turn things around. But we must move from climate talk to climate action.”

The debate was sparked by Labour councilllor Joan Coombes, who urged the council to look at ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Falkirk.

She said: “No-one can argue that we are in an emergency situation and that there is a growing public awareness of the crisis and widespread concern, not least among young people who are anxious for their own and others futures.

“Given that our area has three or four of the highest polluting sites in Scotland – in just one site we’ve got 2.5million tonnes of carbon being produced – It’s important that it’s not just national governments but local authorities should also take a lead.”

Councillor Coombes urged the council to follow the lead of the Scottish and UK governments declaring a climate emergency.

However, also asked the council to ‘note with concern that the Scottish Government has missed its statutory emissions targets for 2016 and 2917 – a statement that did not find favour with the SNP group.

Councillor Garner said: “While I agree with the sentiments, I find it quite puzzling – on one hand it congratulates the the Scottish government on its ambitious targets then criticises them for only narrowly missing those highly ambitious targets they have set themselves when mitigation is there.”

Councillor Garner said that Scotland had been praised as “a leader on the world stage” and had reduced emissions by 3.3 per cent in 2016-17.

But the SNP then offered to put the political differences to one side as Councillor Garner put forward an amendment with measures to tackle the problem with urgency.

Speaking following the meeting, Councillor Garner said: “Climate Change is an issue which affects each and every one of us, and our decisions now will determine the extent to which this issue affects future generations. We have a responsibility to act now to protect our local communities and our world for our children and generations to come.

“Falkirk Council has recognised the enormous harm that global warming presents. A rise in two degrees Celsius in global temperatures would cause significantly more damage, compared to a rise of even one-and-a-half degrees Celsius.

“I am therefore delighted that my colleagues across party boundaries have come together to support this amendment. This sees us commit to redouble our efforts to reduce our carbon emissions to net zero by 2030 in the Falkirk district, and to create a network of climate champions throughout Falkirk Council who will act as ambassadors for this important work.

“These measures build on our existing commitment to target this important issue. I am certain that we will make real progress where this spirit of positive action can be built upon and deliver real and lasting change for people across Falkirk district.”

Councillor Coombes accepted the amendment, saying: “I am delighted we are in agreement.”

Conservative group leader Lynn Munro  also lent their support, although she said it was not just the role of government and local government but something individuals had to think about.

“In the end, it’s a question of people taking responsibility for this. Each one of us has to step up to the plate for change to happen,” she said.

SNP economic development spokesperson, David Alexander, said: “Much of what’s being discussed this morning is already happening and I wish to put that on record.

“From an economic development perspective rather than purely environmental, the challenge for us is to make sure that when we have growth it is sustainable and complementary to environmental concerns that we have.”