Extinction Rebellion protestors gathered outside Highland Council yesterday to lobby councillors heading in to declare a climate and ecological emergency and commit to making the Highland carbon-neutral by 2025.
The activists said they were concerned by a proposals by council Leader Margaret Davidson, which fell far short of declaring a climate emergency.
In the end, the only Green councillor in Highland managed to change the council’s direction on climate change almost single-handedly.
Pippa Hadley, Badenoch & Strathspey, persuaded full council to go much further than action originally proposed by council leader Margaret Davidson, with an amendment to declare a climate and ecological emergency.
Mrs Davidson had originally proposed an informal group to review and revisit the council’s carbon reduction targets and priorities.
When she finally spoke to her proposals yesterday, Mrs Davidson changed her mind, saying she had been accused of “being fluffy” and now wanted the council to declare a climate emergency.
She said: “My biggest fear is tokenism, we must not just say it, we must do it.”
The stakes climbed when Ms Hadley raised an amendment asking the council to declare not only a climate but also an ecological emergency, and to establish a Climate Change Panel with responsibilities to include making the Highlands carbon-neutral by 2025.
— Extinction Rebellion Scotland (@ScotlandXr) May 9, 2019
Ms Hadley said: “I understand the fear that the 2025 date may be unachieveable given the financial resources we have available, but the UK government is working towards 2050, the Scottish Government towards 2045, only the Welsh government shows ambition by setting 2030.
“Why shouldn’t we aim higher, because the planet doesn’t negotiate based on our costs and availability of cash.
“We are particularly well-placed to implement the measures that we need, we already have a provision of wind, solar and tidal power, we have the ability to increase that.”
Tory group leader councillor Andrew Jarvie said he accepted there is a need to move away from fossil fuels, but declaring a climate emergency made him feel “extraordinarily uncomfortable”.
He said: “We’re effectively associating ourselves with a hyper-political very left wing organisation whose aims are not about saving the plant but about the end of capitalism. The alarmism we see erodes public trust.”
Lochaber councillor Andrew Baxter, who seconded Miss Hadley’s amendment, said: “None of us could fail to have been moved by this week’s UN report about species extinction so I’m somewhat heartened that one extinct species has been resurrected here in the dinosaurs tramping round the Tory benches.”
Afterwards, Ms Hadley said: “I’m delighted. I was expecting to have to fight to the end because I believed the council Leader was immovable when she said earlier that she was refusing to meet the demands that Extinction Rebellion had requested.”
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