Members of Wicklow County Council decided last week to set up a new ‘Climate and Biodiversity Action’ strategic policy committee.
Green Party councillor Steven Matthews proposed its formation. ‘Last month Wicklow County Council was the first council in Ireland to declare a climate emergency and biodiversity emergency,’ he said. ‘We were publicised far and wide for taking such a bold step and recognising the emergency.
‘We took the first step. The way to take action is to empower councillors to be able to draft policy that enables us to take action,’ he said. ‘The citizens assembly on climate action recommended that there should be SPCs to tackle biodiversity. Dublin City Council recently approved such a committee. We are empowered to create such a committee. We led on this, now we should be the ones to set the example by creating this.’
Cllr Tom Fortune seconded Cllr Matthews’ proposal. ‘We are all aware there was a massive voice nationally and locally, particularly from our youth,’ he said. ‘I think we have to show leadership. We are elected to reflect the mood of the electorate. We must approve and support the initiative.’
Cllr Jennifer Whitmore said that the council needs to show leadership and show that climate and biodiversity are at the centre of everything the council does.
Cllr Joe Behan said that it was the decision of the 32 members and not the officials. ‘Are we going to start by making decisions, or sit waiting for permission,’ said Cllr Behan.
Cllr Lourda Scott said that this is absolutely essential. ‘The electorate are concerned about climate change and biodiversity change. The next five years are going to be critical.’
Cllr Grace McManus said that young people think that the elected representatives are ‘all talk and no action’.
‘This is the perfect way to show that this is what we are going to do,’ she said.
Cllr Vincent Blake said that all members had heard about the importance of climate change when they were on the doors in recent months. ‘It is the young people of the next generation who will suffer from the failures of the past and maybe our failures,’ he said.
The chief executive said that climate change and biodiversity are a priority. It was dealt with within the environment SPC. He said that it is a reserve function to set up an extra SPC, with terms of reference to be drawn up.