Calls to back Climate and Ecological Emergency Bill supported

Lead member Nick BennettLead member Nick Bennett
Lead member Nick Bennett
Legislation calling for action to reverse the climate and ecological breakdown the world is facing has been backed by a senior East Sussex county councillor, but with some caveats.

The Climate and Ecological Emergency (CEE) Bill, put forward by Green MP Caroline Lucas, is pressing for more ambitious aims to address climate change and biodiversity loss than are currently committed to through existing legislation and policy.

It also pushes for the establishment of a citizens’ assembly to recommend measures to include in a new climate and ecological emergency strategy and calls on the government to support the bill to ‘demonstrate real climate leadership’ ahead of co-hosting the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) later this year.

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A notice of motion submitted by Green group co-leader Georgia Taylor called on East Sussex County Council to back the CEE bill.

She suggested the fact an environment bill was unlikely to be approved before COP26 indicated the sorts of delays they were experiencing with no ‘particularly concrete action at a legislative level’.

Although some piecemeal work had taken place, she said: “We need a bill now and we need to give an overarching framework.”

She also described how a lot of work on climate and the environment had stalled waiting for legislation and outlined the need for the government to outline a comprehensive plan to ensure accountability and help businesses feel more secure.

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Fellow Green councillor Wendy Maples argued in favour of a citizens’ assembly, suggesting it would ensure any future strategy ‘brought on board the public’.

Meanwhile Lib Dem Colin Swansborough highlighted how they were already seeing the impact of climate change in floods, droughts and other severe weather events, adding: “We need to avoid complacency because time is running out and we have to do something about it now.”

Officers had recommended the motion be rejected, arguing the bill did not set out how its enactment would address climate change or biodiversity loss any more effectively than current or anticipated legislation and strategies.

But they did acknowledge the urgency of addressing climate change is ‘undisputed’.

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At a meeting on Tuesday (September 14), lead member for resources Nick Bennett said he was sceptical about Parliament passing the bill, but was minded to go against officers and support the motion, with some tweaked wording acknowledging the work going on already both locally and nationally on the subject.

He felt East Sussex County Council had been ‘in the van of local authority efforts’ to tackle climate change.

The motion will now be discussed at a Full Council meeting, with the next one scheduled for Tuesday October 12.

After the meeting, Julia Hilton, another Green county councillor, tweeted: “Great to see that ‘Greens in the room’ already making change at ESCC. County climate assembly next?”