On 14th February 2019, Hastings’ Labour-led council unanimously passed a ground-breaking motion that’s been talked about around Hastings for some months, committing them to address the climate crisis in every way they are able to under government restrictions.
They aim to make the town carbon-neutral as soon as humanly possible. Many groups in the town are invested in this radical initiative, and the Green Party brought along placards bearing names of the local businesses and organisations supporting the move since their call in November for a declaration of climate crisis. Local people were present in force to see the motion go through. Julia Hilton, one of those who worked on the motion, asked for tighter timescales and firmer goals. Cllr Chowney explained that they must leave some flexibility because they could only do what the government would allow.
If councils run out of money, or break government rules, they get taken over by Tory administrators, which would be disastrous for any green initiative so specifying dates and goals could have disastrous results.
Councillors addressed the dire problems faced by residents living under the cosh of the Universal Credit system our MP, Amber Rudd, is so impressed by.
Possible ways of protecting poorer residents were discussed, including HBC’s almost unique 100% council tax exemption for its poorest. On the downside, funds allowed by government for Discretionary Housing Grant were spent out last year, and the allowance has been reduced this year, despite ever-greater need. Cllr Judy Rogers asked the Tory minority on the council to please tell MP Amber Rudd about the hardship this is causing.
The Big Climate Change Challenge
But the big business of the night was the climate crisis. Labour councillor Dominic Sabetien asked the Tories to also petition Rudd’s colleagues to end the ban on on-shore wind turbines, re-instate solar feed-in tariffs and invest in tidal barrages – all resources Hastings and Rye is well placed to exploit.
Cllr Antonia Berelson, a nurse, spoke about the damage already being done to people’s health, such as the asthma epidemic in London and deaths in Canada caused by “freak” weather, proof that the consequences are with us already, and horribly real to the victims. Cllr Mike Turner added that a change of diet would be beneficial both to health and to the climate crisis effort, because the production of beef was so environmentally destructive.
Cllr Heather Bishop spoke of things individuals and communities can do to help us reach carbon neutrality, and invited the people of Hastings to join the effort.
Cllr Margi O’Callahan pointed out that the poorest suffer worst from environmental disasters, and Cllr Ruby Cox said it’s impossible to expect people to commit themselves to green practice when they expend all their energy just keeping a roof over their heads and food in their mouths – that’s why anti-austerity measures are an essential component of the green revolution.
Red and Green
Councillors Maya Evans and Leah Levane reminded us that green policies had the added bonus of reducing the tyranny of profit-chasing corporations, and reducing fossil energy dependence, a major cause of war.
There were speeches in support from most councillors, however the Tories continued to express reluctance about solar panels, and wanted to know if we could plant trees instead. Peter Chowney – a lifelong environmentalist – said of course tree planting would be included in the scheme but it would not alone solve our problems.
Chowney added that we look forward to a change of government to give councils the funds and the political support to meet the challenge most successfully.
The motion marks a change of emphasis that starts right now, though. Our council has publicly, in detail, taken up the climate challenge. It’s up to all of us now to join in and to support council efforts.
To help your council step up to the challenge, visit redgreenlabour.org