Councillors will consider again whether to declare climate emergency

Havering's Extinction Rebellion group campaigned outside town hall in 2019

Havering's Extinction Rebellion group campaigned outside the town hall in 2019 in the hope that the council would declare a climate emergency. But it didn't. - Credit: April Roach

Havering Council will consider again whether to declare a climate emergency, almost two years after councillors first rejected the idea.

At a meeting last night (February 18), councillors were told a newly-formed “climate change topic group” would “consider what action, if any” the council should take.

Other neighbouring boroughs, such as Waltham Forest and Redbridge, were quick to declare a climate emergency in 2019. However Havering councillors at a full council meeting rejected the idea.

At last night's meeting Conservative Cllr Michael Deon Burton (South Hornchurch) argued the council should not declare a climate emergency “simply because other local authorities have done so”.

He said: “We all accept that the matter is of the greatest importance and I also suspect we are all in agreement that we need to give it the necessary sense of urgency.

“But there’s a difference between that and formally applying the epithet ‘climate emergency’. We are here actually to look at the facts.

“That particular epithet should not be applied just, for want of a better term, because it’s fashionable.”

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He added that he was concerned about which external experts would be called to speak before the new topic group.

He said: “I believe there are genuine people who have quite sincerely held thoughts about the climate situation but, at the end of the day, we are Her Majesty’s local authority of Havering.

“If we have people who openly admit to indulging in criminal behaviour… I do not think it’s appropriate that those self-same individuals are called before us and that we ally ourselves to them.”

In 2019, Havering councillors voted against declaring a climate emergency but accepted a motion for the council to renew its policies regarding environmental protection.

The motion to declare an emergency was moved by the Upminster and Cranham Residents’ Group, who also called on the council to measure its carbon footprint and improve the recycling rate.

As reported in the Romford Recorder, Cllr Gillian Ford said at the time: “We need to empower our residents and their role in a circular economy approach, with recycling, reusing and repairing.

“Havering is the first local authority not to adopt a climate emergency motion.”

At that meeting, the Independent Residents’ Group had argued calls for a climate emergency were misplaced because man-made climate change is an “elementary scam”.