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Climate emergency declared in Sheffield: Labour motion defeats radical Green proposal

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Photo by Tim Green (Wikimedia Commons)

Sheffield City Council declared a state of climate emergency yesterday after councillors voted for a motion put forward by the governing Labour group.

A more radical motion from the Green Party which called for the city to become carbon neutral by 2030 was rejected by councillors. The Labour motion states that the current target date of 2050 will be reviewed within six months.

Members of the public spilled over into a second room for a meeting of Full Council that was marked by hostility between councillors and the public gallery.

Lord Mayor Magid adjourned the meeting after street tree campaigners refused to remove banners unfurled from the gallery reading "Inquiry Now" and "Time To Go Julie," referring to council leader Julie Dore.

Labour councillors were also asked from the gallery whether they planned to take transport back into public ownership as part of their efforts to combat climate change.

"We will do everything we can to get our buses re-regulated," said Councillor Jack Scott, cabinet member for development and transport. "I will continue to push for that with every fibre of my being."

Neither the Green or Labour motions included mention of a Workplace Parking Levy to reduce the number of people commuting into the city centre by car, which the local Labour Party said they would look into in their 2018 manifesto.

"Putting the words CLIMATE EMERGENCY in capitals in the agenda does not count as action," Natalie Bennett of the Green Party told Now Then after the vote. "This is no time for the business-as-usual stance of leaving the target at 2050, as it has been for some time, set when the climate science had yet to realise the urgency of the crisis."

A Liberal Democrat amendment calling for a citizen's assembly to tackle the climate emergency was rejected by Labour councillors.

Councillors also rejected a Green Party amendment calling for the council to procure 100% of its energy from renewable suppliers.

"There was a disturbing degree of ignorance on display in the chamber on environmental issues," said Bennett.

"Nuclear power is not renewable energy, procuring a 100% renewables provider does not mean there is an increased risk of outages, and the council's homes are certainly not at maximum energy efficiency," she said. "All claims made by Councillor Scott during the debate."

Dr Aaron Thierry of Extinction Rebellion Sheffield told Now Then that he welcomed the declaration.

"It's encouraging that Sheffield councillors have heeded Extinction Rebellion's demands and in a near unanimous vote declared a Climate Emergency," he said.

"This is an important first step in recognising both the seriousness and urgency of the climate crisis. However, actions speak louder than words. The first test will be next month's budget, which must show how resources will be allocated to help confront the emergency."

Labour controlled councils in Bristol, Nottingham, Brighton & Hove, Leicester and Lancaster have all resolved to go carbon neutral by 2030.

"We will continue to actively call for the city's zero-carbon target be urgently brought forward to 2030," said Thierry, "and we fully expect this to be announced within the next six months."

"Extinction Rebellion and the citizens of Sheffield will be watching the council's forthcoming actions closely and will not accept inaction or delay," he continued. "We invite all Sheffielders concerned about the ecological crisis to join with us in our rebellion, so as to hold our representatives to their promises."

Natalie Bennett said: "A report back in six months [...] is like, I heard several people say, finding your house is on fire and deciding to form a committee to decide whether to call the fire brigade."

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Extinction Rebellion Sheffield 'Funeral for the Future' protest, November 2018
by Sam Gregory (he/him)

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