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Gravesham council declare climate change emergency as Extinction Rebellion youngster questions council

A council has declared a climate change emergency, giving it until 2030 to make its borough carbon neutral.

It now means Gravesham council's target is 20 years more ambitious than the Governments target of 2050.

Climate change activists Extinction Rebellion (XR) were at the Civic Centre, in Windmill Street, Gravesend last night to find out whether councillors would support a motion put forward by council leader John Burden (Lab).

Young activist, and Gravesham XR member, Leo Manston, six, addressed the council leader, asking a question at the meeting on the topic of climate change before a vote was held.

Gravesham XR were hoping for a target of 2025, but are happy with 2030 (12992554)
Gravesham XR were hoping for a target of 2025, but are happy with 2030 (12992554)

The New Ash Green resident said: "Hello, My name is Leo. I am six years old. I would like to ask you some questions about climate change. It's very important to me because it is affecting our planet.

"The planet is getting hotter. People are dying. It is interesting and healthy for us to understand this.

"I don't think climate change will affect me because I am safe, but it is affecting a lot of other people in the world and I do not like it.

"Would you consider having a selection of children and young people on the council to help make decisions about climate change? It will affect us the most."

Councillors looked on at the Gravesham council meeting as Leo, 6, asked a question (12992550)
Councillors looked on at the Gravesham council meeting as Leo, 6, asked a question (12992550)

Cllr Burden replied to the youngster, saying his group would look to work with all parties and work alongside their youth council.

An amendment for the proposal was tabled by opposition leader Cllr Jordan Meade (Con), which suggested removing the 2030 target mentioned and instead replacing this target with "as soon as possible".

His proposal was seconded by Cllr Ejaz Aslam (Con).

Additionally, it mentioned that green spaces in the borough should be protected as much as possible.

Gravesham XR were joined by some Dartford Labour members at the meeting (12992542)
Gravesham XR were joined by some Dartford Labour members at the meeting (12992542)

The majority of Labour members argued against the amendment, claiming it was "wishy washy" to not have a set date to work towards and that councillors could not be held to account by the younger generation, such as Leo, if a date was not set.

The amendment was voted down, with 24 people voting against it and 18 for the proposal.

The original motion, to declare a climate emergency and begin to take action to prepare for the borough to become carbon neutral by 2030, was successful.

A total of 25 councillors voted for the motion, while 18 abstained.

Laura Manston, left, with son Leo, 6, right at the Gravesham council meeting (12992548)
Laura Manston, left, with son Leo, 6, right at the Gravesham council meeting (12992548)

Laura Manston, Leo's mum and founder of Gravesham XR, said: "It was fantastic and we got the result, which is what we wanted.

"We are happy with the target for now. Extinction Rebellion would like to see a target of 2025 but given that the Government, and more locally Kent County Council, are aiming for 2050, we welcome this much more ambitious target. It demonstrates the level of commitment our councillors have to protecting the planet for the people of Gravesham.

"As protestors for XR we don't claim to be climate change experts. So we believe the next step should be to form a citizens assembly or local equivalent so that a group that is representative of the community can take expert advice and decide as a team how to tackle the crisis.

When asked if she agreed with the Conservative's amendment proposal, the mum-of-four said: "Absolutely not, it's completely contradictory the fact that it's an emergency, which has to happen quickly and 'as soon as possible' leaves far too much leeway for it not to happen at all.

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