Councillors in Kingston will debate whether to back a motion declaring a climate emergency in the borough tonight (Tuesday, June 25).

The motion, which is expected to pass, was proposed by the Portfolio Holder for Environment and Sustainable Transport, Councillor Hilary Gander earlier this year.

Councillors on the Environment and Sustainable Transport Committee at Kingston Council (RBK) will also debate an Air Quality Motion during the session.

Tuesday's debate follows mounting pressure from community organisers, activists and councillors in the borough, plus the growing number of other councils in the UK — and the UK government itself — who have declared a climate emergency this year.

The ruling Liberal Democrat majority, of which Cllr Gander is a part, submitted the motion to be debated at the committee, despite the fact that Lib Dem Council Leader Liz Green told the Comet back in March that she was not in favour of dubbing the climate crisis an "emergency" in Kingston.

The motion to be debated includes strongly worded statements of intent from RBK, committing it to achieving carbon neutrality in the borough by 2038.

If adopted, the motion will also commit RBK to "draw together the work of the Council, already underway, to reduce the impacts of climate change, identify gaps and develop a plan that aims (and) seek advice from experts to develop 5-year carbon budgets, across all the Council’s activities..."

Ahead of Tuesday's debate, Cllr Gander said that she hoped its adoption would encourage measures that added to RBK's current approach to environmental matters including the climate crisis.

"The motion to declare a climate emergency, should it be agreed by Committee, will build on existing initiatives by the council to improve air quality and tackle climate change," she said.

"The motion proposes the creation of a new, dedicated working group to look at the projects already underway, to identify gaps and to work towards making Kingston Council carbon neutral by 2038," Cllr Gander added.

Surrey Comet: Kingston Guildhall. Image: Andrew BowdenKingston Guildhall. Image: Andrew Bowden

The declaration of a climate emergency throughout the UK was one of three central demands made by the non-violent environmental activist groups such as Youth Strike For Climate and Extinction Rebellion (XR), both whom staged a series of dramatic protests in London (including several in Kingston) earlier this year and attracted the attention of the wider public to the climate crisis.

Environmental campaigners, including Kingston's Des Kay of Save the World Club, helped apply the pressure with actions and campaigns in the borough that encouraged councillors to embrace the emergency situation posed by the climate crisis.

"It seems like governments and local authorities are quite keen to sign up to these things but I'm not sure they understand what the implications are," Mr Kay said ahead of Tuesday's debate.

"We're talking about 12 years to extinction if we carry on the way we are, 70 per cent of all animal life has gone since the 70s...It's extremely important that we get this through but it must be acted on.

"I'm still optimistic....the future depends on it," Mr Kay told the Comet.

RBK's only Green Party Councillor Sharron Sumner — who defected from the Lib Dems earlier this year citing the climate crisis as one of her motivations — also expressed hope that RBK would act accordingly if and when the motion was adopted on Tuesday.

"The Lib Dems came under a lot of pressure from environmental groups and from members of their own party...People from across the borough are becoming more and more aware of climate emergency we face.

"I want (RBK) to stop talking about things and actually do something. The council has a legal obligation to ensure it provides biodiversity net gain in everything it undertakes...they do not meet them now and it's not good enough," she said.

Cllr Sumner also pointed to local authorities such as Oxford as examples that Kingston might follow and build upon once the emergency declaration is in place.

"We're looking at projects in Oxford, whose council set 2030 as the deadline for negative carbon emissions, and are looking at the "Superhub" energy project for renewable charging points and batteries so that you have a low-cost, integrated network within communities to provide renewable energy without going through a big provider," the Green Party councillor described.

RBK's Environment and Sustainable Transport Committee will debate motions on Air Quality and Declaring a Climate Emergency from 7.30pm on Tuesday.

To view the full agenda for the committee, go to:

To watch Tuesday's debate live online, go to: