Climate emergency declared at passionate Kettering Council meeting
"This is just the start."
That's the focus after Kettering Council became the latest authority to declare a climate emergency last night (Wednesday).
In rarely-seen scenes the council chamber was so full a few members of the public couldn't get in to listen as 17 speakers - including one aged just 12-years-old - pleaded with the council to take note of the way the planet is changing and do something about it.
The motion to put climate change at the heart of every decision they made, put forward by Cllr Jim Hakewill (Ind) and Cllr Anne Lee (Lab), received unanimous support including backing from Conservative group leader Cllr Russell Roberts and Kettering MP Philip Hollobone, who is also a councillor.
Cllr Hakewill said: "I am very proud to have raised the issue of the climate emergency but even more proud that it got so many people to come along to the meeting.
"There were some excellent speeches from young people, old people and everyone in between.
"What we now need to do is to capture that enthusiasm and as a council demonstrate that we are going to do something."
More than 100 councils across the UK have already declared a climate emergency, including Northampton Borough Council and Northamptonshire County Council.
It means the council will commit to a target of making the area carbon neutral by 2030 and nominate a climate change champion.
They will also place 'climate change implications' on all council agendas, request reports detailing actions taken to achieve the objectives and call on the unitary authority set to succeed them to continue the work.
Cllr Lee said: "I am over the moon, it's such a worthy cause.
"We realise this is only the start but there is a real momentum for change.
"There is so much work to be done but it's thrilling to know that so many people wanted to talk with such passion."
Members of Extinction Rebellion, the group protesting against the climate breakdown, turned up en masse with flags and placards. They also live streamed the meeting on Facebook.
Group member James Dell said: "The ongoing climate crisis has left me terrified and reeling with a sense of powerlessness about what I can do as an individual.
"But it’s not just about individual actions - the people I have met through Extinction Rebellion and the Green Party, some of whom are here tonight, have given me the friendship andsupport and shown that I, and in turn we, need to fight. To fight for the future of my 11-year-old niece - Keira - and her possible children, their grandchildren and all future generations.”
Another group member, James Crowder, said: “Scientists have known and reported for decades that climate change is reshaping the physical face of our planet.
"Declaring a climate emergency is a step in the right direction but you also need to tell us what you are going to do about it and then do it, quickly.
"At our current rate, if we don't make drastic changes, we are looking at devastating consequences for the world we live in.”
Addressing the council, group member Frankie O’Dowd said: "We only have one planet, one earth and if we maintain a laissez-faire attitude: quite simply we are doomed.
"Kettering needs to be at the forefront of reversing climate change.
"I urge you to support this motion. I urge you to save our planet. One person, one town, one country at a time."
Kettering’s Extinction Rebellion group launched at Kettfest on July 13 with a large procession through the town centre and the first major public meeting was held on July 19 with many in attendance.
After the meeting a group spokesman said: “This is a step in the right direction however it is only the beginning.
"Extinction Rebellion Kettering will be working very closely with the larger Extinction Rebellion Northampton to ensure the council follows through on their declaration.
"We only have 11 years until the damage we do to this planet becomes irreversible. We must act now.”
Extinction Rebellion has three demands. They hope to get all levels of government to declare a climate emergency, set a target of net-zero carbon emissions by 2025 and create a citizens’ assembly to come up with solutions to the crisis. The movement is one of the fastest growing in the UK due to the number of members sky-rocketing after the London Rebellion in April which saw protesters block off parts of the city centre for two weeks.
The new Kettering group will be holding regular meetings which are free to attend with all welcome. The group invited local residents to keep an eye on the events on ExtinctionRebellion Kettering’s Facebook page to find out more about these meetings.