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Swale council votes to announce a climate emergency

Swale council has declared a climate and ecological emergency.

Members of the full council were asked last night to consider a three-page motion, which will see staff work towards making its operations carbon neutral by 2025.

Sittingbourne, Sheppey and Faversham should be carbon neutral by 2030.

Air pollution from vehicle exhaust pipe on road. Stock image: iStock
Air pollution from vehicle exhaust pipe on road. Stock image: iStock

Cabinet member for environment, Cllr Tim Valentine (Green), said: "We live in an area that is already vulnerable to flooding, with every tide washing more plastic onto our coastline, and where residents suffer from unacceptably high levels of air pollution.

"Habitat loss and changes in how we use the land are contributing to huge declines of species, with the rate of extinctions rising alarmingly and threatening the pollinators we rely on to grow the food we eat.

"It’s simply unacceptable for us to sit and do nothing, hoping someone else will do something to deal with these problems.

"Taking bold action now to tackle these issues will not only help to reverse these trends but will also deliver economic benefits and improved health and wellbeing for local people."

In the following debate, councillors called on transport firms to move away from petrol and diesel vehicles.

Swale council cabinet member for environment, Cllr Tim Valentine (Green). Picture: Swale council
Swale council cabinet member for environment, Cllr Tim Valentine (Green). Picture: Swale council

Despite supporting the amendment, Cllr Mike Whiting (Con) warned the deadline should be pushed back.

He said: "The science data is that it will be a 2050 deadline, not a 2030 target and that's the target the government would say is achievable."

Responding, Cllr Valentine (Green) said: "I'd much rather set an ambitious target and fall short of it, rather than set a target far in the distance which won't see our minds turned to it."

Cllr Nicholas Hampshire (Con) called for an amendment to make sure officers avoided adverse impacts on services to the most vulnerable residents and called for a report to be presented to Full Council each year to measure the progress made.

Council officers will create an action plan with how it can prioritise improving energy efficiency and making space for nature.

They will also pursue the Swale Strategic Air Quality Action Plan and call on the borough's MPs to support the motion.

The council also wants to be free of single-use plastics by 2021.

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

Campaigners from Kent joined thousands from around the UK for a mass lobby at Westminster over climate change yesterday.

Gravesham council earlier declared a climate change emergency, while Maidstone said it is considering the move.

Kent County Council declared a climate change emergency in May, but has been accused of "letting down" the younger generation after pushing back a proposed target for carbon neutrality by 20 years.

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