As predicted, West Berkshire Council unanimously passed a motion on Tuesday 2 July 2019 which had been agreed beforehand by all three parties, to declare a state of climate emergency.
You can see our livestream video of the debate . (Climate emergency debate starts at 30:50, vote at 1:30:25, Heathrow discussed from 1:30:45)
What Happens Next?
The question of what happens next now becomes important: before that, though, is the question of who decides what happens; which is where the politics risks re-intruding itself into what many feel should be a non-political matter.
The current plan in West Berkshire appears to be for an Environmental Board to be set up. This will, contrary to the original suggestion, comprise only of Executive members (drawn from the ruling Conservative group) and officers, rather than being cross-party.
It is proposed that a cross-party advisory board be established to provide recommendations to the Board. If this is to follow the precedent of the advisory body on planning it will all be conducted under Part 2 regulations, meaning that the press and public will be excluded and its deliberations will not be published. This risks a number of things, not least a lack of transparency.
The majority of people in England now live in a council area which has passed such a declaration, although the the nature of these vary from district to district. The time has surely come for the government – once we have one again – to show a bit of leadership and commitment in this matter and to help join up and co-ordinate the work that needs to be done. It will also have to allocate some serious funding.
Doing anything meaningful will not be cheap and local councils are already very over-stretched, mainly due to recent financial cuts and the ever-increasing cost of adult social care.