Council declares climate emergency in Portsmouth in an ‘historic act’

Members of the Portsmouth Green Party and Extinction Rebellion outside the GuildhallMembers of the Portsmouth Green Party and Extinction Rebellion outside the Guildhall
Members of the Portsmouth Green Party and Extinction Rebellion outside the Guildhall
'IF we don't act now we can wave goodbye to Portsea Island' - Portsmouth councillors have unanimously declared a climate emergency in the city.

In what was described as an 'historic act' Portsmouth City Council yesterday (March 19) vowed to tackle climate change to the best of its ability including a pledge to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2030.

This makes it one of 49 local authorities in the UK to declare a climate emergency.

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The notice of motion was put forward by Labour members Councillor Judith Smyth and Cllr Tom Coles following lobbying from campaigners Extinction Rebellion and the city's Green party, and received applause and support from all councillors.

During full council Cllr Smyth urged her peers to back the pledge. 'As many of you know I babysit my grandaughter two days a week and it is with her in my heart that I urge you to vote for this,' she said.

'Unless we do something there won't be a future for her and other children.'

The pledge also stipulates the creation of a Portsmouth Climate Change Board as well as involvement from local businesses and community groups.

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She added: 'I hope we can declare a climate emergency and ask other businesses to sign up.

'We must make a plan that we are accountable for - we need more than words. The first steps leading to change are about requiring the leader to report back on this in six months. The council should also produce an annual report on this.'

Lib Dem Cllr Hugh Mason voiced his fears. He said: 'Over the past decade I've been particularly concerned with the Southsea sea defences as well as the defences for Portsea Island as a whole.

'Regarding rising sea levels I have become very worried in the past few weeks.

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'It has recently been reported that temperatures on the island of Spitsbergen in Norway have risen by four degrees in 40 years. And winters there are now seven degrees warmer than they used to be.

'This motion is so important. There's a lot of work to do and it must be done without delay because if it doesn't we can wave goodbye to this island.'

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For activist and Green campaigner Tim Sheerman-Chase the support was promising. 'It's great news that Portsmouth City Council has declared a climate emergency,' he said.

'The target to be zero carbon by 2030 is very ambitious and I am concerned whether sufficient measure will be taken toward achieving it. This will also be a big change to people's travel habits and will hopefully improve everyone's health due to better air quality. Central government will have to take the issue seriously and provide funds for the radical change we need.'

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It comes after council leader Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson revealed he had written to MP Michael Gove, the secretary of environment, food and rural affairs, to ask for financial support to improve air quality in Portsmouth.

If the council is unable to prove it can reduce air pollution by October this year the government could enforce a clean air zone on the city.