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Thanet climate change emergency declared as councillors pledge to make district carbon neutral by 2030

Thanet councillors have declared a climate change emergency and will aim to become carbon neutral by 2030.

A packed public gallery cheered as councillors unanimously voted in favour of a motion declaring the emergency and making a series of pledges to make Thanet greener at last night's council meeting.

It followed a lively and colourful protest outside the Civic Centre in Margate as councillors arrived for the meeting.

WATCH: Protesters gather outside the civic centre

Climate change protest outside Thanet District Council in Margate (13719243)
Climate change protest outside Thanet District Council in Margate (13719243)

Protesters played music, blew their whistles and banged drums with banners branding slogans demanding better action is taken to protect the environment.

Labour councillor Rob Yates proposed the motion which was discussed across the chamber and received widespread support.

Introducing the motion to councillors, Cllr Rob Yates (Lab), said: "We're less than 12 years away from catastrophic climate change. The time for talking is over and the time for action is now."

Cllr Yates added ways to address climate change including carbon neutral new build houses and making sure flats in the district recycle.

"There's 16,000 flats in Thanet that currently don't recycle. We need to support action for renewable energy, no idling outside schools, greener refuse vehicles, wildflowers."

He also called on TDC to stop paying into a pension fund which invests in fossil fuels, saying: "This may be better for the council and for pension holders. I'm no financial expert but investing in fossil fuel may not be the best thing."

Climate change protest outside Thanet District Council in Margate (13719237)
Climate change protest outside Thanet District Council in Margate (13719237)

The motion agreed by councillors pledges the council to make Thanet carbon neutral in the next 11 years, lobby politicians in Westminster to provide powers and resources to achieve the 2030 target, working with partners in the district and throughout Kent to deliver the goal and exploring sources of external funding and match funding to support the commitment.

Council leader Bob Bayford (Con) said a report setting out a strategy will be considered by the cabinet in the coming months with it due to be brought back to the full council in February.

"I don't think there will be much debating [tonight] because we're very support of what's being proposed. We will see what the art of possibility is but the will is there," Cllr Bayford added.

Cllr Mike Garner (Green) said: ""This is undoubtedly the biggest issue facing the global community. Thanet will feel the impact of change with rising sea levels - we may become an island again.

"This isn't something just the council can deliver. We need to engage the wider community. We should be working with and learning from them and working with neighbourhood groups and business to reduce CO2 emissions."

Climate change protest outside Thanet District Council in Margate (13719245)
Climate change protest outside Thanet District Council in Margate (13719245)

There was support from councillors on both sides of the chamber.

Cllr Karen Constantine (Lab) criticised Kent County Council for recently passing its own target to address carbon levels as 2050 - pushing back the target by 20 years.

"We must take action and make sure it's in place by 2030. This is probably the most important target we will make in this chamber," she said.

The Newington ward councillor also called on TDC to become "trailblazers" for climate change in Kent, adding: "I would like us to lead the way so please let's make Thanet green."

Cllr Trevor Roper (Green) said it was "amazing people seem to be supporting this already".

He added: "We need to think as individuals and as a community that we can do something to help and as councillors we can set an example - 2050 is far too long.

Climate change protest outside Thanet District Council in Margate (13719239)
Climate change protest outside Thanet District Council in Margate (13719239)

"I hope that all councillors will support this motion to show that we take the climate emergency very seriously."

Other councils in Kent including Gravesham, Swale and town councillors in Hythe have all made climate change emergency declarations and promised to tackle the issue.

Cllr Aram Rauf suggested introducing recycling bins on the seafront to encourages visitors and residents to dispose of plastic and recyclable items properly rather than into main landfill bins.

He added: "I'm delighted that everyone agrees with climate change and giving it attention because some people don't agree with it. We can encourage residents of Thanet to do composting, encourage people with small gardens and community compost bins.

"We need recycling bins in the sea areas. You see the bins but there's not any recycling bins."

Green councillor Becky Wing told councillors there are "lots of things going off in the community" and called on members to "engage and capture that energy".

Vice chairman of the council, Cllr Linda Wright, informed colleagues that Birchington Parish Council, where she is chairman of the planning committee, has a policy in place for people removing trees in planning applications to ensure they are replaced with new trees.

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