Councillors voting at last week’s District Council meeting said a wholehearted ‘yes’ to actively conserving the natural world and making greater efforts towards reducing the UK’s greenhouse gas footprint.

Members of Derbyshire Dales District Council (DDDC) voted to put their weight behind a new bill, due for parliamentary consideration this spring. If passed into law, the Climate and Ecological Emergency Bill  (the CEE Bill) will set the Government on course to play its fair and proper role in restoring biodiversity and tackling the consequences of human activities that now out-strip global capacity to support them. 

Examples of our impact were highlighted in The State of Nature Report 2019 which examined biodiversity in the UK. It showed that 41% of all UK species have declined since the 70s (hedgehogs have declined by 95%). 26% of the UK’s mammals are at very real risk of becoming extinct and 97% of all UK wildflower meadows have been lost in the last century.  

During their debate of the CEE Bill, one Councillor noted that Matlock was just experiencing its second ‘once in 100-year flood’ for the second year running. Another Councillor commented that, despite the pandemic, there must be investment in mitigating the effects of climate change. Councillor David Chapman who presented the motion, considered the CEE Bill to be the most significant piece of legislation since the 2008 Climate Act.  There was 

full agreement that the Council should lobby the constituency MP, Ms Sarah Dines, to give the Bill her full support when it returned to the House of Commons. 

The Bill offers a significant move towards a robust green recovery plan from Covid-19, while placing emphasis on the importance of restoring and protecting wildlife, nature and soil health. It signals that the UK is a standard-bearer for serious climate and ecological action on the world stage and will be worthy of presentation at the international conference, COP 26, to be held in Glasgow in November 2021.

A local group called the Derbyshire Dales Climate Hub (the Hub) alerted the Council to the CEE Bill and suggested the motion of support. They were prompted to do this in  response to the strength of feeling expressed through their own residents’ survey about environmental issues.  This gained over 1000 replies from a wide cross-section of the Dales community. Early analysis of the survey results  indicates both individual willingness to take an active role in green regeneration and an expectation that the council will continue to support CO2 reduction and promote wildlife restoration.  These aspirations align with a key strategy of the Bill: to restore and regenerate the UK’s depleted soils, wildlife habitats and species populations to healthy and robust states, maximising their capacity to absorb CO2 and their resistance to climate heating. The survey results, moreover, indicate a clear shift in the extent to which climate and ecological issues influence how residents will vote in the coming elections – a clear majority stating that these issues will guide their decisions.

Early results from the Dales Residents’ Survey show close synergy between the aspirations of the community and the goals of the District Council. This is borne out by work of the Council over the past 18 months, since Councillors voted to make DDDC carbon neutral by 2030 and declared a Climate Emergency. In that time, the authority has grasped the challenge in a more determined way than most of its county-wide neighbours. The Council’s Climate Change Action Plan sets the administration on course to achieve an impressive range of carbon crunching initiatives. Early in 2021, the Council will appoint a Climate Change Officer to deliver both its in-house and community-based projects. The authority is developing plans for the Dales’ first solar farm; and the Green and Clean Team will be working to increase biodiversity in authority-managed spaces. Another ambitious scheme will see the insulation of hard to heat rented homes (both council and privately owned).  These few examples indicate the Authority’s genuine commitment to tackling the climate crisis.

Despite this progress, the magnitude of reducing millions of tonnes of CO2 across the Derbyshire Dales year on year is a task well beyond the capacity of the District Council as a sole actor. While the community and commerce will clearly wish to play their part, some of the ‘heavy lifting’ in policy and funding terms must be accepted by central Government.  The Council is now committed to support the CEE Bill and in so doing will use its utmost influence to encourage the constituency MP, Ms Sarah Dines, to take this same message to central Government. If the CEE Bill is enshrined in law, it will provide the powers and resources necessary to make the net-zero carbon target and nature’s recovery possible.

With Government backing we can all work together to take concerted action towards far-reaching cultural, technological and environmental change. Without this change, we will be heading towards a tipping-point with unknown consequences for present and future generations. Once ratified by legislation, the Bill will be empowering. It will deliver new funding to benefit cash-strapped local authorities which are currently unable to meet public expectations for a post-pandemic green and fair  recovery and climate resilience. 

If you would like to join hands with others addressing climate and ecological issues and would like to find out more about the Derbyshire Dales Climate Hub email: thedaleshub@gmail.com

Presented by Wendy Bullar, Dr Sheila Evans, Hilary Hebron, Laura Stevens on behalf of the Derbyshire Dales Climate Hub

 

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