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Why won’t Runnymede Borough Council (RBC) Declare a Climate Emergency?

October 1, 2020 6:49 PM
By Don Whyte - Group Leader, Runnymede Liberal Democrats

Don Whyte 2019Is it that the Conservative administration are concerned with having to actually do something about Climate Change, and addressing environmental issues? Or is it simply the fact that the Conservative Party do not get Climate Change? This Governments' target of 2050 for being carbon neutral suggests a bit of both.

At the Runnymede Borough Full Council meeting on the 17th October 2019 a Motion was tabled by the Labour opposition for the Environment and Sustainability Committee to write a report for Full Council. The report is to consider the Declaration of a 'Climate Emergency' and asks for targets and plans to be produced to address the 'Climate Emergency'. The Motion was adopted, supported by an overwhelming majority of councillors present, but little has happened since.

At the forthcoming Environment & Sustainability Committee on the 30th September 2020, eleven months later, an initial Report will be presented asking "[councillors] endorse the direction of travel regarding the Council's developing Climate Change Strategy, as set out in this Report". Nearly a year on and the thought process around Climate Change is about to begin, in what could be construed as a reluctant response.

The Report does not address "consider the Declaration of a 'Climate Emergency', despite Full Council having agreed to do so in October. This seems to be the age-old solution to a question you don't want to answer - ignore it!

It should be noted that a councillor working group has been formed to look at Climate Change and three meetings have been scheduled for late October, early December 2020, and late March 2021.

As of 23rd September 2020, Runnymede is one of only three councils in Surrey, the other two being Reigate & Banstead, and Spelthorne, who have not yet declared a Climate Emergency. Interestingly, these three councils are, or were until recently, the only councils under overall Conservative control.

Whilst Declaring a Climate Emergency does not in itself deliver change, it does illustrate enthusiasm and a sense of urgency in the need to confront climate issues. It also establishes within the management of those councils the importance that this subject should be treated with by all council officers, and the priority the subject should be given in future plans and initiatives.

The fact that the three Conservative councils across Surrey have chosen not to declare a Climate Emergency sadly illustrates where climate and the environment are in terms of their priorities.

Surrey Borough's Climate Emergency Declarations

June 2019 Mole Valley

July 2019 Elmbridge, Epsom & Ewell, Guildford, Woking

September 2019 Waverley

October 2019 Surrey Heath

February 2020 Tandridge

Don Whyte

Runnymede Liberal Democrat Leader

Runnymede Borough Council