Agenda item

Notices of Motion


Proposed by Councillor Wilkinson

Seconded by Councillor Atherstone


Motion to declare a Climate Emergency 


Humans have already caused irreversible climate change, the impacts of which are being felt around the world. Global temperatures have already increased by 1 degree Celsius from pre-industrial levels. Atmospheric CO2 levels are above 400 parts per million (ppm). This far exceeds the 350 ppm deemed to be a safe level for humanity;


In order to reduce the chance of runaway Global Warming and limit the effects of Climate Breakdown, it is imperative that we as a species reduce our CO2eq (carbon equivalent) emissions from their current 6.5 tonnes per person per year to less than 2 tonnes as soon as possible;


Individuals cannot be expected to make this reduction on their own. Society needs to change its laws, taxation, infrastructure, etc., to make low carbon living easier and the new norm;


Carbon emissions result from both production and consumption;


Cheltenham Borough Council has already shown foresight and leadership when it comes to addressing the issue of Climate Breakdown, having led on recycling issues, delivered a local plan with strong environmental policies and through promoting sustainable transport options.


Unfortunately, while current plans and actions locally are making a difference, they are not enough. The world is on track to overshoot the Paris Agreement’s 1.5°C limit before 2050;


The IPCC’s Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C, published last month, describes the enormous harm that a 2°C rise is likely to cause compared to a 1.5°C rise, and told us that limiting Global Warming to 1.5°C may still be possible with ambitious action from national and sub-national authorities, civil society, the private sector, indigenous peoples and local communities;


Councils around the world are responding by declaring a ‘Climate Emergency’ and committing resources to address this emergency.


Full Council believes that:


All governments (national, regional and local) have a duty to limit the negative impacts of Climate Breakdown, and local governments that recognise this should not wait for their national governments to change their policies. It is important for the residents of Cheltenham and the UK that all settlements commit to carbon neutrality as quickly as possible;


Urban areas like Cheltenham are uniquely placed to lead in reducing carbon emissions, as they are in many ways easier to decarbonise than rural areas – for example because of their capacity for heat networks and mass transit;


The consequences of global temperature rising above 1.5°C are so severe that preventing this from happening must be humanity’s number one priority; and,


Bold climate action can deliver economic benefits in terms of new jobs, economic savings and market opportunities (as well as improved well-being for people worldwide).


Full Council calls on the Cabinet to:


Declare a ‘Climate Emergency’;


Pledge to make Cheltenham carbon neutral by 2030, taking into account both production and consumption emissions;


Call on Westminster to provide the powers and resources to make the 2030 target possible;


Work with other governments (both within the UK and internationally) to determine and implement best practice methods to limit Global Warming to less than 1.5°C;


Continue to work with partners across the town, county and region to deliver this new goal through all relevant strategies and plans;


Report to Full Council within six months with the actions the Council will take to address this emergency.




Fossil CO2 & GHG emissions of all world countries, 2017:

World Resources Institute:

The IPCC’s Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5ºC:

Including US cities Berkeley: and Hoboken:, and the C40 cities:

Scope 1, 2 and 3 of the Greenhouse Gas Protocol explained:


Councillor Babbage firstly wished to declare a personal interest as he works for an energy company.


As proposer of the motion, Councillor Wilkinson gave an overview of the issue. He explained that each generation has a duty to improve the situation for future generations.  By passing this motion which would declare a climate emergency and commit Cheltenham to becoming carbon neutral in 12 years, he hoped Cheltenham would make a small but meaningful contribution to achieving a better outlook for future generations. He stressed that as elected politicians Councillors must use everything at their disposal to make a real difference. He advised that according to UN statistics we have just 12 years to advert a climate catastrophe and as such, the situation was more stark than ever. On a global scale, vulnerable people were losing their homes, Africa was experiencing sever drought and flooding and pacific islanders were being forced to abandon their homes, all because of the actions of the developed world. He also acknowledged that the developing world were struggling, for example in Australia, urban areas were being forced to adapt to increasing wild fires and flooding and even in the UK extreme weathers had impacted on the elderly.  He stressed the importance of joining with other councils to declare a climate emergency and calling on Westminster to provide the powers and resources to allow Cheltenham to make a meaningful change locally in order to make a positive contribution to the international fight.


Councillor Atherstone seconding the motion stressed the importance of investing in schemes such as a local carbon transport plan. She acknowledged that they needed to be realistic and would not be able to achieve these ambitious targets alone but needed to both collaborate with local communities and business and encourage support from GCC to address infrastructure and transport challenges. She suggested CBC consider subsidies to purchase electric vehicles, provide enticing benefits for car pooling, improve the safety on pedestrian and cycle routes, invest in paving and introduce increased park and ride facilities. She reiterated the importance of acting now in order to reduce the production and consumption of carbon emissions.


In the debate that followed, Members made the following comments:


·           Members agreed that doing nothing was not an option, they acknowledged that whilst the Council were taking a number of steps to reduce their carbon footprint, they were not doing enough, and as a Council they needed to be civic leaders.  Some Members felt it imperative that the Council be ambitious in its objectives, particularly given that air pollution leads to around 40,000 premature deaths a year.


·           One Member questioned what the current carbon position for the town was and what measures CBC were proposing to take to become carbon neutral. Some Members were concerned that 11 years was an extremely tight timescale to become carbon neutral. Following the outcome of the Council’s recent peer review, Members raised concerns about the potential money and resource implications of the initiative and queried whether the Council should just be considering their statutory responsibilities. Some Members agreed that they needed to be realistic about what CBC could achieve and thought it would be beneficial to see a plan of what was being proposed in order to deliver these objectives following conversations with the Cabinet Member Finance and the Chief Executive about the available resources.


·           Members noted the impact that the heating and cooling of homes has on carbon emissions, they reasoned that by ensuring new homes were wind proof, water tight and properly insulated they could reduce the emissions. They also suggested that more research be done into the potential for using wave power and suggested further engagement with schools. They supported CBH in installing solar panels on the roofs of social and council housing.


·           Members acknowledged the considerable benefits that greenspace and planting can have on carbon capture and acknowledged that a lot could be achieved by simply changing the way we do things. For example, by planting more trees and using perennial plants in flower beds.


·           Members further noted the benefits of plant-based diets on the environment and suggested more plant-based food be sold at the Council’s leisure facilities. Alternative suggestions included investing further in the park and ride, reassessing the Council’s utility supplier and progressing the Council’s move from the Municipal offices. Others suggested reviewing CBC’s planning regulations and making a requirement for all industrial buildings to have solar panels.


·           It was suggested that a Cabinet Member working group be set up to find ways to help introduce carbon saving measures in the Council’s operations.


·           One Member acknowledged that over population significantly contributes to climate change and that particularly in the developing world there needed to be more education in birth control measures.


·           One Member suggested that the remit of the cycling and walking working group be extended to include all forms of sustainable travel and that the working group be used as a way of taking these ideas forward from a travel point of view.


·           One Member acknowledged that there were also socio-economic issues that affect global warming, and that third world countries do not have the luxury of using alternatives to fossil fuels. They noted that emerging nations want the same living standards as the developed world and will inevitably burn fossil fuels in order to get there. As such, they stressed the importance of lobbying the government to get the rest of the world to take it more seriously.


·           It was noted that Members should be aware of the unattended consequences of such initiatives, for example, the UK had reduced its carbon footprint in terms of electricity production but this had pushed electric prices up and caused lots of business to relocate overseas.


·           The Leader was sympathetic to the case being made and agreed that Cabinet would look at what needed to be done in order to achieve the objectives as set out in the motion, he advised that they would bring a report back to Council in 6 months time. 


·           Councillor Wilkinson thanked Members for their comments and reiterated the importance of being ambitious in their targets and emphasised the importance of calling on Westminster to provide the powers and resources to make the 2030 target possible.


The motion was unanimously passed.

Supporting documents: