27 May 2021
Environmental campaigners reacted with anger to Labour’s refusal to support a motion tabled by newly elected Green Councillor, Dr Hannah Charlotte Copley at the first meeting of the new council asking the Council to support the Climate and Ecological Emergency (CEE) Bill. The ruling Labour group passed an amendment that removed key commitments, including that to support the Bill, which was then passed.
Cllr Copley said, 'The CEE bill has been drafted by scientists, legal experts, ecological economists and environmentalists. It is designed specifically to reverse the climate and ecological breakdown we face. The complete re-write of this motion removes all of this and adds several paragraphs that I have specific objections to. The amendment contains many untrue claims.’
The CEE Bill is supported by 109 MPs, from 9 political parties, 53 of whom are Labour. Cambridge MP Daniel Zeichner is not among them.
Campaigners were puzzled as to why local Labour councillors did not feel able to support the Bill. Naomi Bennett, Green Councillor for Abbey said, ‘ Greens are not interested in playing party politics. We see being councillors as being a service to the community and to the planet.’ Community historian, Antony Carpen observed that Cambridge Labour councillors following Daniel Zeichner's position 'reflects the over-centralisation of, and lack of flexibility within our political systems and institutions. The convention of collective responsibility of ministers & shadow ministerial teams should not extend this far'. Daniel Zeichner sits on Labour's front bench, and they do not support the CEE bill and he cannot publicly express support for it.
Matt Howard, campaigner and Green Party candidate said, 'We must start facing up to the fact that the last 200 years of planetary history are a total break with the previous 10 million. Biological and atmospheric rates of change on the planet are at 1000s of times the background level. Modern life as we know it is not sustainable. The CEE Bill is currently the only legislative option to address the crisis with enough urgency to keep global warming within manageable bounds.'
James Murray-White, filmmaker and activist commented, 'I am appalled that this new City Council here in Cambridge has not today supported the Climate & Ecological Emergency Bill, as put forward by Green MP Caroline Lucas. We are a forward thinking City, aware of the effect our species is having on the planetary ecosystem, and we need to make urgent amends now - today. What would Charles Darwin think? This greenwash by our Council is not good enough and will not stand.’
Local Green party member and academic Dr Emma Garnett stated 'I am angry and disappointed. Cambridge is a very progressive and green-leaning city. Green candidates received 20% of the vote in the local elections this month. By following Daniel Zeichner's stance for party political reasons, Cambridge Labour councillors have slammed the brakes on action to tackle the climate and ecological emergencies at a local and national level. It's an awful example of how politics as usual is failing us.'
Image: Cllr Hannah Charlotte Copley stands outside the Corn Exchange before Thursday’s Council meeting (Photo Credit Derek Langley)