Council leader calls for UK to declare climate emergency

25/06/2019, PR-9100

Climate change
Climate change threatens global food security

Cllr Peter Box CBE, Leader of Wakefield Council and Chair of the Key Cities Group, is calling on leaders of the 343 councils in England to urge No 10 Downing Street to declare a climate emergency.

He has tabled an amendment for debate at the Local Government Association 2019 General Assembly, scheduled for July, to recognise climate change not just as an aspirational United Nations (UN) goal but as an emergency.

Climate change is listed as goal #13 in the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The SDGs are a collection of 17 global goals set by the UN General Assembly to be achieved by 2030 to help improve the quality of life for all people on earth.

Cllr Box says if all the SDGs are to be met, then local government must be properly supported to play its role because climate action is the bedrock on which the 16 other SDGs rest.

He says: "Climate action must no longer be a goal but an imperative. Climate change is happening now. It is creeping across our skies and re-shaping our ground now. Not tomorrow, not by 2030, but now. If we don't respond now, none of the other SDG's can be achieved. We will not achieve zero hunger when large parts of the Earth will no longer sustain crops. We will not solve poverty when some countries have to pay the price of the affluence of others. We will not innovate and prosper as we lose land to the sea, breathable air to extreme heat and hope to despair."

Cllr Peter Box CBE, Leader of Wakefield Council

The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has said that in the last century, sea levels rose by about 19cm and will rise by 40-63cm by 2100. There has been a 0.85% increase in temperature between 1880 and 2012 and it is forecast to rise by another 1.5% before the end of this century which will decrease food availability. It's been estimated that for every one-degree increase in temperature the yield from crops of grain decrease by five per cent.

The IPCC has also said that global temperatures can be reduced to two per cent above pre-industrial levels or less.

To achieve this, says Cllr Box, climate change must be classified as an emergency and not just a goal: "It needs to be absolutely clear that none of our ambitions for the global population will be achieved unless we address climate change. I am calling on the Government to declare a climate emergency for all districts across England and to properly fund local government to play its indispensable role in responding to this emergency. I am urging my counterparts at the LGA General Assembly to join me in sending this strong message to No 10 Downing Street."

Cllr Box's motion is being seconded by the Leaders of Kirklees, Norwich and Southampton Councils.