The inspirational and empowering words of 16 year old Greta Thunberg were a major force behind Dumfries and Galloway Council’s Climate Emergency Declaration.
Climate Emergency Declaration (CED) has been one of the most fast-moving agendas to impact on Local Authorities in recent years. Whilst climate change has been recognised as a major issue for more than a generation, it is only in the last couple of years that the enormity of the risk associated with failing to tackle this head on has been widely recognised. This recognition has been brought to the fore in the last few months with the reports from the IPCC and the UK national Climate Change Committee outlining that we are actively feeling the impacts of this change. They recognise the need to prevent an uncontrolled increase in carbon or longer term, risk the inability of the planet to sustain existing human populations or the supporting ecosystems that feed us.
Members of Dumfries and Galloway Council considered and agreed the establishment of a Climate Emergency Cross Party Working Group which will meet within 60 days and oversee implementation of the following 12-point plan:
1. Dumfries and Galloway Council hereby declares a Climate Emergency and recognises the impact this will have on our quality of life. We recognise our responsibility to tackle climate change and fully commit to taking effective action to limit the impact on our region and its people;
2. We recognise the challenges ahead to tackle climate change and, whilst we have already made significant strides towards achievement of a regional net zero carbon status, we will seek to achieve this outcome by the year 2025 and subject to continuous review.
3. We recognise our critical strategic leadership role to tackle climate change and will create a new and specific council priority from which our strategic objectives and outcomes will flow;
4. We will urgently review all policy and practice across our council directorates and departments to identify ways in which we can move further and faster on carbon reduction measures;
5. We will embed climate change considerations into all policy and practice risk assessments to ensure a continuous focus on the implications our actions may have on our environment, and ensure that measures to reduce or eliminate carbon emissions are acted on;
6. We recognise the existing impact of the changing climate on the lives of local populations and will help them to make informed decisions on how to adapt to climate change; individuals, communities and businesses need a greater understanding of climate change and its impacts;
7. We recognise the importance of our biodiversity and natural environment in our drive to reduce the impact of climate change and will encourage and support practices to enhance and sustain the farmed and natural world;
8. We will embrace innovative measures and respond as a priority to technological advances which can reduce our region’s impact on climate change. This will enable opportunities to contribute to the economic development and diversity of our region by supporting businesses and communities which can benefit from schemes and projects which support our priority to tackle climate change;
9. We recognise that our pursuit of net zero carbon emissions is a challenge which all people who live and work in our region will share. Accordingly, we will establish a broad based and diverse Citizens’ Panel, which will bring together representatives from across our region, harnessing the skills, experience and innovation our people possess to inform and influence the action we will take as a council;
10.We will produce a Climate Change Strategic Action Plan which will incorporate our obligations under the Climate Change (Emission Reduction) (Scotland) Bill when enacted, encapsulate everything that we can do to reduce or eliminate carbon emission and, will incorporate actions on loss of biodiversity and our natural environment;
11. We will commit to working closely with other local authorities, statutory agencies, public and private sector organisations and our communities to achieve carbon reduction outcomes and will seek to identify and share best practice;
12. In recognition of Dumfries and Galloway Council’s commitment to our Climate Change Declaration on eliminating carbon emissions, protecting our region’s biodiversity and natural environment we will appoint an elected member as our Environment Champion.
This motion builds on the good work that Dumfries and Galloway Council has already undertaken, early indications through the councils statutory climate duties report show that the council has delivered its 42% reduction in carbon emissions against the baseline figures a year early.
Council Leader Elaine Murray said;
“Climate change is not some far-off problem that future generations will have to deal with. The reality Is that it is happening right now. There is a clear role and opportunity for Dumfries and Galloway Council to explore its assets and assess how they can be best used for renewable energy developments. There is clear evidence that this approach could also bring huge economic and social opportunities to the region to be capitalised on.”
Depute Leader Rob Davidson added;
“We cannot pretend any longer that the danger of climate change doesn’t exist. It’s not really a case of discussing climate change and the possible impacts it is now time to talk about climate action and what we are prepared to do about it. The 12 point plan, with the support of environmental and climate change groups, demonstrates that we will in the vanguard of addressing not just climate change but the necessary action.”
Newly appointed Environmental Champion, Councillor Dougie Campbell feels confident about the future;
“I’m delighted that there is cross party support in moving this forward. We are very fortunate in Dumfries and Galloway that we have a beautiful natural habitat to live in. However, we need to protect it; protect the fragile biodiversity and our natural environment. We benefit from having a dispersed population, limited heavy industry, good forestry and agricultural bases. They provide a natural removal of carbon that leaves us carbon neutral by definition. The motion places the council locally as a leading body to work with and support the wider stakeholders across the region to work collaboratively to ensure a more sustainable future for all residents of Dumfries and Galloway, whilst safeguarding our natural assets and resources.”