This blog post was originally published in October 2019
With many councils around the country declaring a climate emergency, we all have a responsibility to make sure actions are effectively taken and that passing a climate emergency motion is more than just an act of lip service.
Earlier in 2019, the opposition Labour & Co-operative Group on West Oxfordshire District Council supported a motion to declare a Climate Emergency at a full council meeting. There was a unanimous vote for the motion, and our Labour Group is represented on the council’s working party to agree the next steps for the council. West Oxfordshire is a largely rural area, and most people don’t think that environmental issues are a challenge in rural areas. But in West Oxfordshire we have hotspots of dangerously poor air quality and our biodiversity is being threatened, as well as contending with issues such as greening the energy supply and improving public transport. In opposition, the Labour Group are pressing all of these issues and more, to get the ruling Conservatives to take radical action.
As well as being a West Oxfordshire Councillor, I’m also Leader of the newly Labour and Co-operative controlled, Witney Town Council, a town council in David Cameron’s (former) back yard. To show that Labour are serious about tackling the climate emergency, and some of the things that we could do if we were running West Oxfordshire Council, we’ve taken actions that have placed the environment at the heart of our community. We’ve held a public meeting in the town centre with high profile speakers on climate change, and held a public policy building session. Many residents have continued to attend our public climate committee meetings off the back of this. We’ve also held a Car Free Day in Witney, to encourage residents to make use of bikes, public transport and any other way of getting around – we’re lucky that we have so many paths and cycle routes in the area.
So, whilst we may be in opposition in West Oxfordshire, we’re using all the tools at our disposal to hold the Tories to account and to press for a more radical agenda. Whilst it is hard work I’d urge you to look at all the different things you can do in opposition as opposed to what you can’t do – from using the democratic process at your Town Hall, working with local and national campaign groups, and any town or parish councils in your local area who share your agenda on tackling the climate emergency.