Council denies passing climate emergency declaration is “political posturing”

A climate emergency has been declared by East Renfrewshire Council ahead of COP26 — despite opposition councillors claiming the move was “political posturing.”

East Renfrewshire Council

SNP members Annette Ireland and Caroline Bamforth urged councillors to declare an emergency in a motion which recognised ongoing work in East Renfrewshire but called for plans to be accelerated.

They were backed by their SNP colleagues, Labour and an independent councillor, who passed the motion by eight votes to three.

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However, Conservative councillors, while praising the work of council officers, said declaring an emergency was “a little ineffectual”.

And Councillor Stewart Miller, a former Conservative politician, now independent, abstained.

Councillor Miller, who chairs the council’s audit and scrutiny committee, which recommended renewing a climate change strategy and action plan, said the motion was a “kick in the teeth” for staff in the environment department.

The motion called for a Climate Change Partnership Group to bring together councillors, residents, young citizens and businesses to work on reducing their carbon footprint.

It asked council staff to look into funding options for the “necessary actions” needed to combat the crisis, and for climate change impact assessments for all policies to “assist towards reaching the goal of zero emissions”.

Councilllor Ireland said: “The leaders of more than 100 countries from around the world will gather in Glasgow, the outcome of the summit will shape the future of the planet that we live on.

“Local authorities have the responsibility to lead on the climate change agenda, and it is extremely important that the council declares today that we support taking action to combat this emergency.”

Conservative councillor Gordon Wallace attempted to replace the whole motion with an amendment, which stated: “In the face of the challenging faces of a pandemic, this council recognises and supports the efforts made by council officers to ensure East Renfrewshire Council plays its part in the global fight against climate change.”

He said: “For East Renfrewshire Council to declare a climate emergency in the same week that 120 or so world leaders are arriving on our doorstep to attend the COP26 climate summit to discuss the measures required to address the very emergency they are declaring does appear a little ineffectual.

“Somewhat closing the stable door after the horse has well and truly bolted.”

And Councillor Miller said he was “extremely disappointed” with the motion, which was a “slap in the face” for all residents who recycle and a “kick in the teeth” for the staff of the environment department.

He said the council staff “are doing as much as they can given the resources this administration gives them.”

“Given that the cabinet has already accepted the audit and scrutiny committee report, this motion is merely political posturing.”

Council leader Tony Buchanan, SNP, said he was “astonished” by some of the discussion: “It has not been put in as being political, it is there to highlight a very real issue which impacts on us all.”

Councillor Ireland added she had been a “little bit upset” at what she had heard, having hoped to get cross-party support: “I was trying to make it as non-political as possible, this affects us all.

“I would say that the motion here is to accelerate plans, I’m not belittling those previous plans that have been made.”