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Has your local council declared a climate emergency and what do they plan to do?

By Lydia Catling

The need to protect the planet has become alarmingly apparent in recent months with the list of local authorities declaring a climate emergency growing every day.

Maidstone Borough Council was the first in Kent to accept the need to curb pollution.

Here is a round up of how the county's local authorities have progressed since then.

Extinction Rebellion protesters staged a "die-in" outside County Hall in Maidstone
Extinction Rebellion protesters staged a "die-in" outside County Hall in Maidstone

Ashford Borough Council

Conservative-led Ashford Borough Council rejected a motion to declare a climate emergency and commit to becoming carbon neutral by 2030.

Many councillors suggested the term ‘emergency’ was not appropriate.

The motion, introduced by Green Party councillor Steve Campkin, was narrowly defeated, with 14 councillors voting for and 16 against.

Following the outcome, council leader Gerry Clarkson presented a counter motion, keeping the commitment to reduce carbon emissions to zero by 2030 and a further target to have 80% of emissions eliminated by 2025. This amendment was supported by council members.

Ashford Borough Council suggested the term ‘emergency’ was not appropriate
Ashford Borough Council suggested the term ‘emergency’ was not appropriate

Canterbury City Council

A climate emergency was declared by Canterbury City Council last month.

The council came to a unanimous, cross-party decision, declaring an emergency and introducing a target to reduce its carbon emissions to net zero by 2030.

To achieve this target, the council will introduce a number of measures.

It will set up a Canterbury Climate Change Board to develop a joint action plan with other public organisations and set aside £500,000 for one-off actions required to meet carbon reduction targets.

The council said it will ensure its new offices are carbon neutral and new refuse vehicles and park and ride buses are as environmentally-friendly as possible.

Young people protest outside Canterbury City Council offices
Young people protest outside Canterbury City Council offices

Dartford Borough Council

Dartford Borough Council is yet to announce a climate emergency.

There is currently an online petition in place, created by a resident, calling on the council to take action.

Dover District Council

At the last full council meeting, Labour councillor Dr Joseph Burman put forward a model motion stating Dover should set a target to become carbon neutral by 2030.

Dr Burman also suggested a number of other climate change prevention targets.

The motion was rejected at the meeting on July 24, with all Labour members voting for the motion but all Conservatives voting against.

Dover has not declared a climate emergency
Dover has not declared a climate emergency

An amended version has been put forward by Tory members for consideration this autumn.

Key points include ensuring climate change is given appropriate consideration with all procurement decision and banning the single-use plastics at events held on council land.

Folkestone District Council

Folkestone council voted on the issue at their recent full council meeting - the night before the country would experience the hottest day on record.

The motion was presented by Cllr Georgina Treloar, and was passed unanimously with one amendment at the Civic Centre.

It stated direct risks to the area include rising sea levels, water shortages, coastal erosion, an increased number of heat-related deaths.

In addition, the district was recently found to be the most at risk for flooding in the county.

Cllr Treloar said: "There is nothing that will overwhelm the human race and our beautiful, fragile home more than climate change if we do not take immediate action."

Nine of Kent's 13 district councils have declared a climate emergency
Nine of Kent's 13 district councils have declared a climate emergency

Gravesham Borough Council

Following questions from a young Extinction Rebellion activist, six-year-old Leo Manston, Gravesham Borough Council voted in favour of declaring a climate change emergency in June.

The motion put forward by council leader John Burden also committed to being carbon neutral by 2030.

An amendment to this motion was proposed by opposition leader Cllr Jordan Meade, which suggested the carbon neutral target should be as soon as possible.

This was rejected by the council, with the majority of Labour councillors arguing it was “wishy washy” to have no set date.

Gravesham council voted in favour of declaring a climate emergency
Gravesham council voted in favour of declaring a climate emergency

Maidstone Borough Council

The County Town’s local authority was the first to declare a climate and biodiversity emergency in April, after figures from Friends of the Earth revealed Upper Stone Street generates the fifth highest level of pollution in the country outside London.

Unlike other councils, Maidstone Borough Council pushed back a proposed target for carbon neutrality from 2030 to 2050, a decision met with criticism.

Maidstone was the first to declare a climate emergency
Maidstone was the first to declare a climate emergency

Following its declaration, the council has agreed to set up a cross-party working group to lead an inquiry into climate change and threats to wildlife in the area.

The group will produce an action plan for the town and will be able to carry out site visits, public meetings and commission work with its £40,000 budget.

Medway Council

Following in the footsteps of Maidstone Borough Council, the unitary authority in Medway declared a climate emergency on April 25.

The council noted its previous targets were inadequate in responding to the challenge of keeping the world's temperature below 1.5C.

Medway council declared a climate emergency in April
Medway council declared a climate emergency in April

Sevenoaks District Council

Sevenoaks District Council are currently "looking at how they can best respond to the nationally declared Climate Emergency".

Leader of the council Peter Fleming: "We do not just need to decide on making a declaration but also need to actually set out the real and tangible actions it will take."

Swale Borough Council

Councillors at Swale considered a three-page motion which proposed the declaration of a climate emergency in June.

The motion was passed almost unanimously with 40 votes in favour and two abstentions.

A climate emergency motion was passed almost unanimously by Swale council
A climate emergency motion was passed almost unanimously by Swale council

Members of the full council committed the organisation to making their operations carbon neutral by 2025 and the rest of the borough to follow suit by 2030.

The council will also pursue the Swale Strategic Air Quality Action Plan and wants to be free of single-use plastics by 2021.

Thanet District Council

A climate emergency motion was passed by Thanet Direct Council put forward by Labour councillor Rob Yates in Margate on July 11.

Councillors also pledged to make the district carbon neutral in the next 11 years.

The meeting followed a lively protest outside the Civic Centre as councillors arrived for the meeting who later cheered in the public gallery as the motion was passed.

Climate change protest outside Thanet District Council in Margate
Climate change protest outside Thanet District Council in Margate

Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council

Proposals for declaring a climate emergency were discussed by the Tonbridge and Malling council on July 9.

The council voted unanimously in favour of recognising the global climate change emergency.

Commitments to becoming carbon neutral by 2030 and a revision of the Climate Change Strategy by May 2020 were also approved.

Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council declared a climate emergency in July
Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council declared a climate emergency in July

Tunbridge Wells Borough Council

Tunbridge Wells Borough Council is the latest Kent council to declare a climate emergency.

Labour and Conservative members have joined forces to recognise they "need to do more" to protect the planet.

The motion was proposed by Tory councillor Jane March with Labour's Luke Everitt as seconder.

It was passed unanimously by full council with just one abstention.

Mr Everitt said: "We put normal party politics behind us and the motion gained cross-party support - it was a nice acception to the rule."

Tunbridge Wells Borough Council is the latest Kent council to declare a climate emergency
Tunbridge Wells Borough Council is the latest Kent council to declare a climate emergency

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