XR Luton Town Hall for Climate Emergency motion

A summary from Colin Hall, our Political and Lobbying WG coordinator, about yesterday’s Council meeting outcome

“Some of us attended the debate at Luton Borough Council on the two climate change motions yesterday evening (30th July 2019)

The Bad News

The Liberal Democrat motion which called for a declaration of climate emergency by the Council was defeated, with the Labour group voting it down. The reason given for not declaring a Climate Emergency was that the Council need to assemble the scientific evidence. This seems absurd.

The Lib Dem Councillor commented: “What message does this send to our young people?” “We know that we are in a dreadful state…We want to be doing it now.”

The Good News

The competing Labour motion was passed. It was said that the motion has been toughened up, but we did not see that version on paper, and I have asked Tom Shaw, the lead Councillor on it, to send me a copy of the new wording and also his speech.

All who spoke appeared passionately committed to the cause. It was said more than once that this is the most important item that has come before the Council. The Labour justification for not declaring now seemed to be that they wish to build a strongly prepared, evidence-based action plan, to be in place for Jan 2020. At that point, the Council would declare a climate emergency [if the evidence so concludes].

A Citizens Assembly will be set up (to advise and scrutinise, I think) with the participation of young people of particular importance. It will be to able act outside the normal framework for such bodies if need be.

A powerful Working Group will be set up, with a cross-party approach agreed on all sides, starting next week. There will be opportunities for others to be involved in this.

Some positive references were made relating to XR during the debate.

Card presentation to the council

This week we were able to present our giant card to the council executive, calling for a declaration of climate emergency. It has been signed by many of us at XR Luton, attendees at a recent Luton Council of Faiths meeting, and members of the public we talked to at our march on Friday.

Hazel Simmons received the card, and we then read a statement to the council executive outlining the need to act, and calling for a sense of urgency.

Both were well received, and councillor Tom Shaw spoke to us about the council’s plans to consult on a net zero target for Luton. He mentioned 2030, twenty years earlier than central government’s current target.

We are grateful for the council making space for us on the meeting’s agenda, and we look forward to working with them to develop solutions for Luton.

We will also keep up the pressure on the council to ensure that this positive rhetoric turns into real policy. We do note that even in the press release to announce these new climate policies, there is a robust defence of airport expansion. We recognise the complexities of these issues, but ultimately airport expansion is not compatible with net zero climate targets. We will be raising this in futher discussions and actions with the airport operators.

Thanks to the arts and creative team for a wonderful card, and the politics group for liasing with the council.

Town centre action

On Friday 19th of July, Luton marked the 100th anniversary of the Peace Day Riots. We marked the occasion by processing down George Street to call on the council to declare a climate emergency.

This was XR Luton’s first action together.

Around 40 people joined the action at its peak, as we stood outside the town hall for a moment of silence. Drums and chants then accompanied our march up the street, as we gave out flyers and talked to those out and about on what was a very rainy day. We paused outside Barclays Bank, a notorious funder of fossil fuels projects, and a delegation went in to talk to the manager. Ending back at the town hall, we collected signatures on a giant card that will be presented to the council.

We are grateful for the support of XR in Hitchin and Bedford, who supported the action, and for the loan of the big banner from Bedford.