Lancaster City Council has unanimously declared a “climate emergency”, and will work towards reducing carbon emissions to net-zero by 2030, bringing forward its current 2050 goal by 20 years.
The motion, which was proposed by Labour party councillor Kevin Frea, was strongly supported by local youth, who gathered the 1,500 signatures necessary to force a debate in the council in just three days.
Lancaster, which sits about 25 miles north of the Preston New Road fracking site, is the latest in a string of cities to declare a “climate emergency”. Bristol kick-started the trend in the UK with a motion passed in November 2018, and Oxford, Bradford and Scarborough passed similar motions earlier this month.
“It really injects a sense of urgency,” says Frea, who says his motion was heavily influenced by these predecessors.
Specifically, the motion sets up a “Climate Change Cabinet Liaison Group”, which, over the coming year, will review the city’s climate change strategy and develop a new carbon budget considering both consumption- and production-based emissions. It also requests a report on the extent to which the Council has investments in the fossil fuel industry, to be delivered within the next three months.
Influenced by Extinction Rebellion, the motion also calls for a Citizens’ Assembly to be convened in 2019, which Councillor Frea hopes will provide insights from across Lancaster residents on how to reach net-zero emissions by 2030. “As far as I know, no other council has done that yet,” he says.
But Frea acknowledges that this is just a first step. Without “constant vigilance” from the community – and without an injection of government funding – the city might find it difficult to achieve its accelerated programme of carbon reductions.
This is also a concern among young people who supported the movement to declare a climate emergency. The motion requests that the Cabinet “take steps to proactively include young citizens in the process”, but for those involved in pushing the petition, this does not go far enough.
“We're talking about setting up our own youth climate panel, to try to hold them to account now, to make sure things happen and action is taken – to monitor on the follow through,” says Millie Prosser, a second year student at Lancaster University, who helped to gather signatures on the petition.
“Because I think that is a little bit of a worry: That it may just be words, to some extent, and meetings behind closed doors. So continued action is good,” she said.