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Cambridge City Council has declared a ‘climate emergency’

Zero Carbon described the declaration as ‘simply not good enough’

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On Thursday 21st February, Cambridge City Council declared a climate emergency and agreed to establish a Cambridge Climate Charter.

The move was triggered by a petition which Extinction Rebellion handed to the Council on 16th February: including the signature of 2,123 signatures from individuals who live, study and work in Cambridge. The petition called for the Council to support local organisations in reducing their carbon output and, ultimately, for Cambridge to have carbon-free estates and operations by 2025. Extinction Rebellion sought urgent action by Cambrdge City Council to avoid 'a devasting future of floods, heatwaves and crop failure'.

Given the high level of local environmental activism – the recent Zero Carbon protest at BP and the YouthStrike4Climate march being pertinent examples – the pressure on Cambridge City Council to act on climate issues has become increasingly difficult to ignore.

Whilst the petition called for the Council to achieve carbon neutrality by 2025, the current 'aspiration' for zero carbon remains to be 2050. Executive Councillor for Environmental Services and City Centre, Rosy Moore, stated that 'real progress towards net zero carbon' will only be achieved through major policy changes from central government.

In particular, Councillor Moore called for 'the Government to give us greater powers and…to provide…the investment in renewable energy sources, home energy efficiency, public transport and low-emission vehicles needed to reach net zero carbon by 2030'. Perhaps most crucially, Councillor Moore stressed the need for 'government leadership' on climate action, which she criticised as 'currently absent'.

In response to the news, Cambridge Zero Carbon Society told The Tab:

"Cambridge City Council’s watered-down declaration of a climate emergency is simply not good enough. The current goal of reaching zero carbon emissions in Cambridge by 2050 is far too late. If we are to stay below 1.5 degrees warming and avoid catastrophic climate breakdown, then we must reach net zero carbon emissions by 2030. We join the tens of thousands of students striking last week to call on the Government and the University to deliver a zero carbon future by 2030."

"Failing to tackle the climate crisis with the urgency it requires will have disastrous consequences, disproportionately affecting countries in the Global South and the world's most marginalised communities for which the declaration of emergency comes 20 years too late.”

As Zero Carbon's response to the declaration makes clear, the environmental policies which governmental actors believe to be politically possible are not necessarily compatible with the radical measures which climate activists regard as scientifically, morally and environmentally necessary.

The content of the the Cambridge Climate Charter and policies pursued in its delivery will certainly prove the subject of subsequent debates. Despite this declaration, the continuing activities of groups such as Zero Carbon and Extinction Rebellion mean pressure upon Cambridge City Council to act further on climate issues is unlikely to ease.

Cover image: Daisy Everingham. Overlain with image of Cambridge City Council, by Ardfern (source, licence).