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Climate demands rejected by Highland Council leader

By Gregor White

Elliott Blaauw (centre) with protesters outside Inverness Town House....Extinction Rebellion.Picture: Gair Fraser. Image No. 043883..
Elliott Blaauw (centre) with protesters outside Inverness Town House....Extinction Rebellion.Picture: Gair Fraser. Image No. 043883..

THE leader of Highland Council has come under fire for refusing to declare a climate emergency.

Councillor Margaret Davidson met with the Extinction Rebellion (XR) movement but refused to meet their demands.

The council’s only Green Party councillor, Pippa Hadley, wanted to lodge a motion binding the council to achieve carbon neutral status by 2025 by removing or offsetting all the carbon it produces. She also wanted the local authority to spell out its action plan within the next six months.

But Cllr Davidson questioned what the council would achieve by using the term “climate emergency”, arguing it would discourage and alienate a number of people in the chamber.

Her alternative motion going to today's full council states the local authority “recognises the serious and accelerating changes to the world caused by climate change”.

It adds a sub-group will be set up to review what the council is doing to reduce its carbon footprint and it commits the council to targetting areas for behavioural change, such as plastic reduction, but it will consult with the public before setting new targets and priorities which will not make it into the council’s corporate plan for another 12 months.

Cllr Hadley said Cllr Davidson’s decision to avoid the term climate emergency was a mistake “given the current recognition by other councils and governments that one exists” and she intended to submit an amendment to the motion.

XR’s Inverness area organiser, 66-year-old grandfather-of-three Elliott Blaauw, said: “She’s trying to fob us off with a watered-down paragraph, which is toothless and commits to nothing

“We’re not going to be fobbed off by some council leader.”

Inverness’s Friends of the Earth co-ordinator Anne Thomas, who took part in a mass ‘die-in’ with fellow XR protesters in Falcon Square on Friday, said more radical action, such as blocking roads, could be taken.

Cllr Davidson insisted she was passionate about climate change and her motion would win more support from members.

She said: “I want to get a platform we can all get onto rather than just coming out and saying ‘we have a climate emergency’ because that will alienate a number of people in the chamber.

“If you, as an organisation, are doing your level best to tackle climate change, and you are demonstrating that, I think you will make more progress than you will by saying to everybody ‘this is an emergency’. And if they think that’s watering down what they want, then so be it.”

Inverness and Nairn MP Drew Hendry said if Westminster and the Scottish Government could declare a climate emergency it “beggared belief” that Highland Council could not do the same.

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