New council declares climate and biodiversity crises

Kendal Castle with grass and flowers in the foreground

Councillors have backed a motion that confirms a new unitary authority recognises we are facing climate and biodiversity crises.

The motion approved by a majority of the Full Council of the Shadow Authority for Westmorland and Furness Council says that the council:

“Acknowledges that man-made greenhouse gas emissions play a major part in the climate crisis. Greenhouse gases are also diminishing our biodiversity, which is further adversely affected by habitat loss, pollution, overexploitation, increases of non-native species and systemic weather disruption.

“Climate change and biodiversity loss will have far-reaching effects on our economy, our society and our environment in the district, across the UK and across the globe.’’

The motion, which was proposed by Councillor Giles Archibald, Shadow Authority for Westmorland and Furness Council’s Cabinet Member for Climate and Biodiversity, says the new council will build on the work of the existing councils, CAFS and other volunteer organisations working within the new authority area and is committed to:

  • reducing its own carbon emissions to net zero as soon as possible
  • working with others to target a net zero carbon Westmorland and Furness by 2037
  • increasing biodiversity by, for example, restoring natural habitats, restricting invasive species and reducing pollution.

The motion wording continues: “We are committed to working with Town and Parish Councils, communities and other partner organisations in tackling these emergencies in a just and fair manner.

“Council further urges government to work with local authorities, health services, businesses, farmers, educational institutions and all other interested bodies to address the climate and biodiversity emergencies as quickly as possible.’’

Speaking to the motion at Wednesday’s Full Council meeting, Councillor Archibald thanked the Shadow Authority’s cross-party working groups, which have already been looking at climate change and biodiversity loss issues and how the new council can take practical steps to address the challenges.

Councillor Archibald said: “There’s an assumption that the human species will last forever, but we are on a pathway to imperilling our own species.

“If we do the right thing now then we can still save the situation.

“If we adopt this motion then these issues will run as a ‘golden thread’ through all of our work in the new authority. We need to be a key player and to contribute to the solution.’’

The motion was seconded by Councillor Ann Thomson, who added: “We need to put climate change and biodiversity loss actions at the very heart of our Council Plan.’’

Westmorland and Furness Council will act in ‘shadow’ form for the next 10 months, as its councillors engage in the planning and preparation for Vesting Day on 1 April 2023.

1 April 2023 is the point where Westmorland and Furness Council and its councillors will officially take over responsibility for all services across the Barrow, Eden and South Lakeland areas and the existing Barrow Borough, Eden District and South Lakeland District councils, along with Cumbria County Council, will be dissolved.

Until April 2023 all current services will continue to be delivered by the existing councils, overseen by the councillors on those councils.

In the meantime, councillors on the Shadow Authority for Westmorland and Furness Council will be working with the Local Government Reorganisation programme planning for the new council to ‘go live’ in 2023.