On the day that Conservative Prime Minister Rishi Sunak rowed back on key climate policies – drawing criticism from business, NGOs, his own party, former colleagues, opposition politicians, charities, citizen groups and international partners and leaders – local Westminster Conservatives followed the Prime Minister’s lead, by failing to support the declaration of an ecological emergency in Westminster. Despite this, Labour councillors, who care passionately about the combined climate and ecological crises, were able to pass the motion.
Last night, Westminster Conservatives failed to vote to:
- Declare an ecological emergency;
- Work with local partners and stakeholders to improve biodiversity;
- Undertake a Green Infrastructure Audit, develop an ambitious strategy and detailed and proportionate action plan to address biodiversity loss in Westminster – something that has never been done before locally, despite other councils doing so;
- Declare the Council’s support for the national Climate and Ecological Bill.
Under the previous administration progress was slow, with emissions only reducing by 1% in their final year in charge. Westminster declared a climate emergency four years ago, to enable resources to catalyse local climate action, but the fastest year-on-year reduction occurred in Labour’s first year in charge of Westminster, with emissions reducing by 17.5%.
Westminster’s declaration four years ago did not include the other side of the coin: the ecological emergency. This puts Westminster Council out of sync with many other councils across the country, including neighbouring Camden and Hammersmith and Fulham. This meant that Westminster Council had no ambitious and comprehensive plan to halt and reverse biodiversity loss in Westminster.
Climate and nature action should be above politics. Four years ago, Labour supported the climate emergency motion when proposed by the Conservative administration. Last night, Westminster Conservatives chose to dismiss the urgent ecological emergency as ‘virtue signalling’ and did not vote for the motion.
Now that the Labour administration has declared an ecological emergency, we will start work immediately to act on the motion taking the steps needed as a council to protect and enhance biodiversity. Furthermore, because what happens in Westminster does not take place in isolation, the Council will be writing to local MPs to ask them to also support the progress of the Climate and Ecology Bill.
Deputy Cabinet Member for Climate Action and Biodiversity Cllr Ryan Jude said “Some things are more important than playing party politics. Unfortunately, this current Conservative Party, both nationally and locally, place political point scoring above such crucial and existential matters.”