Councillor “disappointed” after climate change motion is rejected in favour of corporate plan

Climate change protest in Huntingdon

Climate change protest in Huntingdon - Credit: Archant

A Huntingdon town councillor has described his “frustration and disappointment” after his climate change motion was defeated in favour of an alternative document that he believes “lacks commitment”.

Of the 16 councillors present at the full Huntingdon Town Council meeting on April 4, a majority of 13 voted to accept the council’s corporate plan on climate policy to lower emissions and create a more sustainable environment rather than back a new motion tabled by Cllr Samuel Sweek.

Cllr Sweek hoped councillors would follow in the footsteps of St Neots Town Council, which last month voted unanimously to support a motion calling on the government to declare a Climate Emergency and become carbon-neutral by 2030.

“It wasn’t until the agenda was put in front of me at the meeting that I realised a committee had put forward a new motion, which I just couldn’t support,” he explained.

“Suddenly, instead of presenting my motion, I had to scrap my notes and defend and justify my myself alongside the new one. It was pretty shocking really. It is surely not an issue to be debated, we should be doing everything we can and setting a time frame, according to warnings from the United Nations,” he said.

He concedes that the town council’s corporate plan does goes a long way in addressing climate change, but feels committing to the 2030 date is key to the issue.

“Instead of listening to the voices of the people, many of whom attended the meeting and were outside with their placards, the council has just kicked climate change into the long grass and stepped away from any real commitment. We have just voted to just carry on doing what we are already doing,” he explained.

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Cllr Sweek was supported by Cllr Patrick Kadewere and Cllr Ann Beevor who voted in favour of his motion and all three abstained on the vote of the second motion.

“This was a missed opportunity to take up the mantel on behalf of our residents and make a pledge to do what we can to secure the future of the planet,” said Cllr Sweek.

“A few weeks ago, some students from Hinchingbrooke School took part in the YouthStrike outside the town hall, asking our council to act. People took the time to stand outside with signs and placards before the meeting, as well as coming into watch proceedings, because they wanted the council to commit to a carbon-neutrality date of 2030. Meetings are usually poorly attended and it is a real shame that fellow councillors appear to have missed the point with this motion, one even criticising the UN at one point of the debate.

Cllr Veronica Hufford, who voted against Cllr Sweek’s motion, said after the meeting that she had “real reservations” about putting a date on climate change.

“I just didn’t feel we needed to put a date on climate. If you check out the facts regarding the UN’s report published last October there is a lot of evidence that is not complimentary. I think we are doing enough as a council and actively working towards addressing issues around climate.”

In October last year, the United Nations published a report outlining a future climate emergency within the next 12 years if global warming continues at its current rate.

Carbon neutral, also called carbon neutrality, is the result of organisations, businesses and individuals taking action to remove as much carbon dioxide from the atmosphere as they put in to it. The overall goal is to achieve a zero carbon footprint.