Council declares climate emergency amid debate on its priorities

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Friday, May 17th, 2019 4:27pm

By Saul Cooke-Black - Local Democracy Reporter

Monmouthshire has become the first council in Gwent to declare a climate emergency, amid calls for the authority to ‘get its priorities right.’

A motion put forward by Liberal Democrat councillor Jo Watkins received support in the chamber on Thursday, although it was a contentious amendment by the Conservative group which eventually won support.

Conservative council leader, Peter Fox, said he supported the message of the motion but put forward an amendment to change some of its wording.

The motion proposed working to limit global warming to less than 1.5C, but the amendment suggested taking out this figure.

A UN report has warned any further rise than 1.5C in the next 12 years would significantly increase the risks of floods, drought and extreme temperatures.

Predicted sea level rises could see parts of Portskewett, Severnside and Chepstow under water if action is not taken, councillor Watkins said, directly affecting residents in Monmouthshire.

Councillor Watkins said it was vital the council worked with others to help limit global warming by 2030.

“I have a six-year-old and an 11-year-old,” councillor Watkins said.

“My six-year-old will be 18 by the time 12 years have passed and I fully expect her to ask, ‘mum what did you do?'”

Independent councillor Frances Taylor supported the motion, but warned it is now time for the authority to “get our priorities right.”

Councillor Taylor said backing reducing carbon emissions and mitigating climate change, while at the same time supporting the new M4 relief road was “a contradiction in terms.”

“I do not think we can laud our trials of, for example, electric vehicles, while at the same time calling for the M4 to be built,” Cllr Taylor said.

However Conservative Richard John said there was still “a strong case” for building new roads in some areas, while at the same time working towards new cleaner and greener vehicles.

Labour group leader, Cllr Dimitri Batrouni, criticised the proposed amendment for ‘watering down’ the original motion.

The amendment suggested changing that the council will ‘ensure’ it will reduce its own carbon emissions to ‘strive’ to reduce.

Liberal Democrat Jez Becker warned removing the target figure of 1.5C would ‘take the teeth’ out of the declaration.

After a lengthy debate councillor Fox agreed the figure should be included, although insisting that other changes to the wording of the motion remained.

Councillor Fox said the amendment was about “being realistic”, and ensuring the council can achieve what it sets out.

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