South Hams Declares Climate Change and Biodiversity Emergency

South Hams District Council held a Council meeting on Thursday 25 July, with councillors unanimously supporting a motion to declare both a Climate Change and a Biodiversity Emergency.

Following recommendations from the Executive committee in June, the Council agreed a Climate Change Emergency and went further, with the additional inclusion of a Biodiversity Emergency. The Council will now collaborate with Climate Change agencies along with Devon Councils, including Devon County and Plymouth City, to address the emergencies. Agreement was reached to develop an action plan which will outline how the Council will meet, or exceed, the UN’s intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) carbon reduction recommendations.

This will include an assessment on whether the 2030 target date will be practical.  The assessment, to be presented to Council within six months, will also look at concerns about global species and habitat loss raised by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES). A politically balanced Working Group will be established by the end of August led by the Leader, Cllr Judy Pearce, Lead Executive Member for Climate Change.  At their first meeting, the Working Group will consider setting up a Citizens’ Assembly and to bring a recommendation to the next Council meeting on 26 September. The Council will also take steps to ensure developers improve biodiversity within their development plans and to avoid, where possible, any impact to wildlife.  Or, as a last resort, to carefully mitigate against any impact, in agreement with the Joint Local Plan Policy.

Cllr Hilary Bastone, Deputy Leader of South Hams District Council, said: “It’s important to have a clear plan of action about how to deal with the Climate Change and Biodiversity Emergency in an achievable timescale. We’ve put in place sensible steps to help us find out more and we’re looking forward to working with other organisations and councils, through our Working Group, to develop a plan which will help us to reduce our carbon footprint.” 

Cllr John Birch, SHDC Ward Member for Totnes, added: “I’m pleased that we have also taken biodiversity into consideration when talking about Climate Change.  Biodiversity is directly affected by a changing climate, and this has negative consequences for the populations’ wellbeing. With this in mind, I’d very much like to see a Citizens’ Assembly set up to gain the views of those living in the South Hams.”

Cllr Jacqi Hodgson

Cllr Jacqi Hodgson, SHDC Leader of the Green Party, who tabled the original motion last December, was delighted that Biodiversity was now part of the formal Declaration, saying that ecological collapse was essential to urgently address, said: “It’s really important that going forward we take steps to make sure that when developers apply for planning permission, they have made provision to conserve and manage biodiversity to avoid any impact to wildlife habitats, wherever possible.  If this can’t be avoided, then any harm should be minimised.” 

Climate Change impacts all of the Council’s six Corporate Strategy themes.  To read more about these themes, go to: https://www.southhams.gov.uk/article/5347/Council-Performance-and-Strategy

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