At 5pm on Wednesday 19 July, a couple of dozen campaigners gathered outside Dover District Council Chamber before the full council meeting. The campaigners – from East Kent Climate Action, Transition Town Dover, and Sandwich Environmental Conservation Group – were there to show support for two questions from the public being put to the new Labour Leader of the Council, Cllr Kevin Mills. The questions were submitted to DDC and asked by Christine Oliver and Sarah Waite-Gleave, Green Party members and climate campaigners in Dover district. Christine Oliver is also the Green Party PPC (Prospective Parliamentary Candidate) for the Dover constituency.
Climate and Ecology bill
Christine Oliver asked:
Will DDC leaders support the Climate and Ecology Bill, introduced in the House of Commons on 10 May? It is a vital, new, cross-party proposal – drafted by world-leading scientists – to ensure that the UK plays its full role in tackling biodiversity loss and climate change? There is a gap between what is currently being delivered and what the Government needs to do to act in line with the latest science. The Climate and Ecology Bill, or CE Bill, would:
- Provide a clear, joined-up plan; the crises in climate and nature are deeply intertwined, requiring a plan that considers both together. Reduce UK emissions in line with the Paris Agreement, ensuring that UK emissions are reduced rapidly, for the best chance of limiting warming to 1.5°C.
- Halt and reverse the decline in nature, setting nature measurably on the path to recovery by 2030, as agreed at COP15.
- Ensure that the UK takes responsibility for our overseas footprint, both emissions and ecological.
- Involve the public: giving people a say in finding a fair way forward through a ‘climate and nature assembly’.
Request for open partnership
Sarah Waite-Gleave asked:
Will the new DDC leadership heed the call of Dover district’s many climate concerned citizens, to replace the closeted Climate Change PAG (Project Advisory Group) with a more publicly accountable working group involving representatives from all parties represented on the district’s town councils, and community and civil society representatives, in order to take the urgently needed large-scale actions on the conjoined cost-of-energy, climate and nature crises, so that, in partnership, the net zero target for the whole district may be brought forward from 2050 to 2035?*
Replying to Ms Oliver, about the Climate and Ecology Bill, Cllr Mills replied that, yes, he supported the Climate and Ecology Bill, a private member’s bill which has cross-party support in the House of Commons, that the threats to local communities and the world are critical. Pushed by Christine Oliver to say if his side of the chamber would put a motion of support for DDC to formally support the Bill at the next DDC meeting in October, Cllr Mills said, Yes, Ms Oliver should be sent details of the model motion and his group would propose it to the Council.
New arrangement to be considered
Replying to Ms Waite-Gleave about the setting up of a more publicly accountable and collaborative working group (or partnership) to get the whole district to net zero before 2050; Cllr Mills said he did see the need for an improvement on the unaccountable PAG arrangement set up by the previous Conservative administration, he would like to involve those of other parties from town councils with relevant knowledge/experience in the new structure, and he would be talking to the portfolio holder whose responsibilities include climate change, to bring this about. He also pointed out that there was a natural limit to the size of a group if it was to work effectively and make timely decisions.
Sarah Waite-Gleave commented:
On behalf of the climate-concerned across our coastal district, we welcome these promises for a better chance of working together to get urgent work done, especially on fuel poverty. We hope these promises will be firmed up at the next meeting of DDC, in October which we will be attending.