South Tyneside Green councillor calls for action not 'tokenistic blah blah blah' during climate debate ahead of COP26

South Tyneside councillors have backed a motion calling for more Government resources to help local authorities meet climate change commitments.

Friday, 22nd October 2021, 6:22 pm
Updated Saturday, 23rd October 2021, 9:58 am
Green Party councillor David Francis

South Tyneside Council’s ruling Labour group brought forward a motion to mark the upcoming United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26).

The motion to full council on October 21 set out several pledges including marking the ‘historic occasion’ of the UK hosting COP26 by ensuring activities are available to South Tyneside residents, businesses and schools.

It also asked council chiefs to write to the government to lobby for more resources for councils to enable green recovery, alongside raising the issue directly with regional partners.

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Although the motion won unanimous support, Green Party Group leader on the council, councillor David Francis, said several pledges in the motion were “already happening.”

Cllr Francis explained: “I would argue that we’re starting to see a number of motions come to full council meetings that could easily be dealt with elsewhere by the ruling group.

“I’m concerned that when this happens, it runs the risk of seeming tokenistic and taking up time that could be better used on new resolutions rather than simply repackaging things we have already committed to.

“I’m planning to support this motion as these arguably are the most important issues we face today, but I’m keen to see us using motions to council calling for real tangible action rather than what Greta Thunberg might describe as ‘blah blah blah’.”

Labour cabinet member for area management and community safety, Ernest Gibson, stressed that the council was “100% behind the green economy” in South Tyneside and would be moving forward.

He added the council has detailed plans around reducing its carbon emissions, had previously devloped a toolkit for schools and was planning to develop a ‘business toolkit” in future.

Labour councillor Joan Atkinson, deputy leader of the council, added it was a “timely occasion” to bring the motion forward with “COP26 being so high-profile.”

She added there was backing from all political parties in the council chamber towards making South Tyneside more sustainable and that Labour’s motion aimed to “reinforce” previous commitments.

“I honestly don’t believe that this [motion] is a regurgitation, I think it’s a reinforcement, I think we have a new leadership here both politically and with our chief executive,” Cllr Atkinson added.

Meanwhile Labour councillor John McCabe said climate change is the “most important subject in world” but that it was important to be “realistic” about the costs involved.

As part of COP26, South Tyneside Council is planning to host a week of climate change activities and events across the borough.

For more information on the programme, visit: www.southtyneside.gov.uk/article/73595/COP26-Climate-Summit-Week

The motion entitled ‘COP26’ agreed by councillors on Thursday, October 21 reads:

Between the 31st October and 12th November 2021, Glasgow and the United Kingdom will play host to the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26).

The summit will bring together a range of national and international stakeholders, including the governments of the world with a view of accelerating actions towards the goals of the Paris Agreement and UN framework Convention on Climate Change.

South Tyneside has a strong record of seeking to mitigate the effects of climate change extending further than our formal climate change cmergency declaration in 2019.

As a council and leader of ‘place’, South Tyneside Council has already achieved real success in its ambitions to become carbon neutral by 2030.

Collectively, as a borough, region and country, we have a duty to engage in this discussion and ensure that we play a key role in ensuring that the effects of climate change are significantly reduced and mitigated.

This council resolves to:

Mark the historic occasion of the UK hosting COP26 – ensuring that a programme of activity is made available to residents, business and schools within the borough.

Ask the Lead Member for Area Management and Community Safety and Head of Environment to write to the Prime Minister, Rt Hon Boris Johnson MP, and Rt Hon Alok Sharma MP, Chair of COP26, sharing South Tyneside Council’s ‘Climate Change Strategy and Action Plan’ and ‘Green Economic Recovery Plan’ making clear the need for the UK Government to make resources available to local councils, business and residents to achieve our ambitious goals.

Ask the Leader of the Council to raise this issue directly with regional partners such as the North East Combined Authority, North of Tyne Combined Authority, Joint Transport Committee and Local Enterprise Partnership.

Instruct the Chief Executive of South Tyneside Council to maintain this as a key priority for the council and ensure that we continue taking steps and seeking opportunities internally and externally to meet our commitment to tackling climate change.