‘Ecological emergency’ approved for South Tyneside
Councillors in South Tyneside have declared an “ecological emergency” as part of efforts to boost the borough’s biodiversity and safeguard the natural environment.
South Tyneside Council made the commitment at the most recent meeting of full council following an investigation by one of the council’s main scrutiny committees.
Against a backdrop of biodiversity loss across the UK and globally, the ecological emergency proposes steps the council, its partners and borough residents can take to “reverse this decline” locally.
This includes a recognition of the importance of the natural environment and the risks of the “collapse of vital life support systems” that nature provides through clean air, clean water, pollination, food and natural resources.
A motion on the issue was originally raised by Green Party councillor David Francis at a full council meeting in February, 2022, however councillors at the time voted for the Place Select Committee to investigate further.
This saw a cross-party working group established, made up of council officers and councillors, which considered and revised the motion culminating in a new declaration and action plan.
After being put to the vote at a full council meeting on March 9, 2023, the final ecological emergency declaration won unanimous support.
The declaration sets out 11 pledges, from ensuring council strategic decisions and policies “consider and maximise nature recovery”, to the development of “member champions for biodiversity”.
Other pledges include increasing “eco-literacy” across South Tyneside, lobbying the Government for necessary powers and resources and reporting annual progress against the declaration and an evolving action plan.
Councillor Geraldine Kilgour, Labour chair of the Place Select Committee, introduced a report on the ecological emergency to the meeting at South Shields Town Hall.
Cllr Kilgour said: “The benefits of the borough’s nature or the natural environment are vast and wide-ranging, from a reduction in carbon emissions to surface water management and a reduction in air pollution.
“Investing in nature also contributes significantly to the improved health and wellbeing of our communities and helps us deliver economic benefits by way of new jobs, green and blue tourism opportunities.
“We’re not too late to reverse the decline in nature and this declaration is positive and a positive step towards achieving this in South Tyneside”.
Councillor Margaret Meling, Labour cabinet member for economic growth, skills and climate change, welcomed the cross-party discussions and said the declaration would be “impactful”.
Cllr Meling added the ecological emergency declaration would “compliment national direction from Government and focus [the council’s] actions on delivering for the benefit of nature”.
Councillor Andrew Guy, Green Party councillor, welcomed the “spirit towards the issue and also a deep willingness to find solutions to the problem”.
Councillor Anne Hetherington, Labour cabinet member for adults, health and independence, said it was important to “seek the voices” of the borough’s voluntary groups in developing action plans on the issue.
Councillor David Francis, Green Group leader, added he was “delighted” to see the ecological emergency declaration return to full council and also praised the cross-party process.
Cllr Francis said: “We have heard talk about a decline in nature and biodiversity but what we’re actually talking about is the sixth great extinction in the history of the planet.
“It’s the only one that’s been largely caused by the activity of one species, that species being us, the human race.
“I just wanted to say that because that’s how important this is and that’s how key it is that the human race takes action to reverse that”.