Calls for Peterborough to declare an ‘Ecological Emergency’ made by city councillor

A Peterborough councillor has called on the city to declare an ‘Ecological Emergency.’

By Ben Jones
Tuesday, 25th January 2022, 12:00 pm
Councillor Nicola Day.
Councillor Nicola Day.

The motion has been put forward for debate at full council on Wednesday (January 26) by Cllr Nicola Day, Green Party representative for Orton Waterville ward.

The motion calls on the council to act to increase biodiversity on land it owns by the drawing up of an Ecological Emergency Response Plan within one year.

Cllr Day’s calls come in the wake of a report that was published in June last year by the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee. It stated that since 1970, there has been a 68 percent decrease in the population sizes of mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles, and fish. As well this, the UK has was found to have the lowest level of biodiversity remaining of the G7 countries. The report estimated that 15 percent of the UK’s species are threatened with extinction.

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The government’s Environment Bill, which became law in November, has given councils a legal responsibility to maintain a Nature Recovery Strategy (a map-based exercise showing opportunities for recovering and enhancing biodiversity).

The council, which declared a Climate Emergency in 2019, last created a biodiversity strategy in 2004, which amongst other measures, proposed that alternative ways of managing council owned landscapes across the city should be trialled in order to promote biodiversity.

This resulted in the setting up of eight “biodiversity areas” in different parts of the city, where various management regimes, often involving reduced grass cutting frequencies, have been trialled.

More recently PECT has promoted tree and wildflower planting at various locations through the Forest for Peterborough and B-lines projects.

Cllr Day’s motion states: “Two crises, inextricably combined, are challenging humanity on a planetary scale.

“The Climate Crisis is certainly the higher profile of the two. The Ecological Crisis is perhaps less well understood, but its correction is equally urgent and requires profound change.

“Ecosystems might be considered as the planet’s ‘life support system’. Ecosystems provide the oxygen in the air that we breathe. They ‘host’ the carbon cycle by fixing gaseous carbon dioxide. They provide pollination for our food crops and maintain a stable climate. Climate change should be viewed as the consequence of humans exceeding the natural capacity of the planet’s ecosystems to take in CO2.

“The large majority of council services impact upon the functionality of natural systems at some level: we own and maintain large amounts of land associated with highways, parks, open spaces and land rented to tenants via Corporate Property and Land; as a Local Education Authority, we are able to influence local education provision; as a Planning Authority we are able to influence developmental decision making; and as an investor we are able to influence the practice of other organisations.

“In order to contribute to preventing the collapse of global ecosystems, it is now imperative that this council acts locally and reviews all services to ensure cessation of any activities that negatively impact upon ecosystems, and to bring about a ‘net gain’ in biodiversity.

“This motion proposes that the Council adopts a parallel approach to addressing the ecological emergency as was agreed to address the related climate emergency.”

If passed, the motions would request that the Growth, Environment and Resources Scrutiny Committee consider a report within nine months with details of potential actions the council may implement.