Forest of Dean District Council has become the first rural local authority in the UK to declare a Climate Emergency and bring forward carbon neutrality targets to 2030.
Councillors received a standing ovation from a packed public gallery when the motion to declare a Climate Emergency and aim to make the council and the district carbon neutral by 2030, was passed on Thursday (6 December) night.
The motion, proposed by Green Party councillor Chris McFarling and seconded by a Labour councillor, was passed unanimously, meaning it was backed by councillors from across the political spectrum.
The council’s decision will see the Forest of Dean follow in the footsteps of the London Assembly and Bristol City Council in declaring Climate Emergencies and bringing the respective cities’ carbon neutrality targets forward to 2030.
Councillor McFarling told the council that the consequences of global temperature rising above 1.5°C higher than pre-industrial levels are so severe that preventing this from happening must be humanity’s number one priority. Millions are already being affected, with the forest fires in California being just one recent example. Bringing the message home, he warned that repeated heatwaves could also turn the Forest of Dean into “a tinderbox” with “catastrophic consequences.”
The council leader, Tim Gwilliam, spoke movingly of how his 10-year-old son had convinced him to support the motion.
“What sealed it for me wasn’t anything my colleagues or David Attenborough said,” Cllr Gwillam explained. “It was my boy”.
“My boy came home from primary school and asked us to do this, and he’s 10. And if he’s to have a future, then we have to do this.”
The Green Party motion was supported by local members of the Extinction Rebellion group; and a statement from the group was read to his council colleagues by Green Party councillor Sid Phelps.
Before the debate, the council heard a question from a local 15-year-old, Milo Moore, who, on behalf of young people of the district, asked the council what action they would take to secure his future.
The question, read out by Milo Moore’s father (as only registered voters can address the council in person), asked: “I am fifteen years old. I need to start planning my life, but how can I make plans when the climate is changing so rapidly and the future looks so uncertain?
“I want to know what actions the council will take to reduce the district’s CO2 emissions. Will you be the generation that acted, that grasped the enormity and the urgency with just twelve years to go? What will be your legacy? What would you like it to be?”