Bristol Council declares climate emergency

In light of recent warnings that the world has 12 years to limit global temperature rises to 1.5ºC above pre-industrial levels, a motion from the Green group on Bristol City Council calling for the city's carbon neutrality targets to be brought forward to 2030 has passed with cross-party support.

Bristol Council Building
Bristol Council Building
Green World

A motion brought forward by the Green group on the Bristol City Council calling on the Mayor of Bristol to declare a ‘climate emergency’ and bring the city’s carbon neutrality target forward 20 years to 2030 has passed unanimously.

The motion, which was carried in a Full Council meeting held last night (13 November), was submitted by Green Party Councillor Carla Denyer. Denyer was moved to submit the motion following the release of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report that warned humanity has only 12 years to limit global temperature rises to no more than 1.5ºC above pre-industrial levels, or risk facing increasing flooding, extreme weather, drought and famine.

The text of the motion notes the progress already made by Bristol City Council in reducing the city’s carbon impact and argues that, as a former European Green Capital, Bristol has an important role to play in leading the UK on reducing carbon emissions as quickly as possible.

It asked the city’s Mayor Marvin Rees to declare a ‘climate emergency’ and pledge to make Bristol carbon neutral by 2030 (bringing forward the city’s current target by 20 years). Rees was also asked to call on national government for more powers and resources to support this, to work with partners in Bristol and other governments both in the UK and nationally to prevent temperature rises above 1.5°C, and to report back in six months on the actions that will be taken to address the emergency.

Suggested actions for Bristol City Council to take include: involving carbon reduction in every decision it makes; stepping up the electrification of its vehicle fleet; requiring higher energy efficiency standards for new developments; putting further work into reducing food waste across the city; and working with city partners to encourage lower emissions and reviewing contradictions – for example, the Mayor’s support for the expansion of Bristol Airport.

Responding to the motion, Mayor Rees declared that he was “happy to go along with this” and that he “shares in a sense of emergency”, stating that “national governments are failing” and “cities working collectively” can drive action on climate change. He called on members of the council to work on “rallying the whole city together” to achieve the 2030 target. Rees added that the 2030 target could be put into the city’s Green Plan and that he had already asked Bristol Green Partnership about how this could be carried out.

When put to a vote, the motion passed with 56 votes for and no abstentions or votes against.

Speaking on the passing of the motion, Councillor Denyer said: “This is a fantastic day for Bristol and I’m delighted the Council will be bringing forward its target for carbon neutrality to 2030. The IPCC report made it clear that time to preserve Earth as we know it is running out. We can’t wait for the UN or national governments to negotiate when we have just 12 years to act – we have to show how it’s done and commit to ambitious action at the level of cities, which we did this evening.

“I’m grateful to my colleagues in the Green Group, who supported me in bringing this motion to council and leading the other political groups in the right direction, to those councillors from other parties who saw the importance of taking action, and to the public who did a fantastic job submitting statements and emailing their councillors in support of this motion. Thanks to all of you, Bristol is now leading the rest of the UK on climate change.”

“The next step is to ensure that this evening’s commitments are followed by ambitious action,” commented Councillor Steve Clarke, who seconded the motion. He added: “Over the coming years, Greens will continue to hold Bristol Council to account on today’s decision, no matter what party is in power. We know that 2030 is a big commitment for the city and to meet this target an awareness of carbon emissions will have to factor into every decision the Council takes. We look forward to the Mayor reporting back to us in 6 months on what action he will take.”

The full text of the motion can be viewed on the Bristol Green Party website.