One does not simply declare a climate emergency. That became obvious, with stark clarity at last night's Kirklees Full Council meeting.
I had resubmitted a motion that the Green Group had submitted to the last Full Council. This motion called for West Yorkshire Combined Authority to withdraw £100 million of support for the expansion of Leeds Bradford Airport. This motion despite my best efforts had fallen off the end of the agenda at the last meeting. This time in an effort to get it debated I withdrew a long standing Green motion that was nearer the beginning of the agenda and asked the Council to allow us to have the Leeds Bradford Airport motion heard in its place. This was rejected by Labour. When we got to near the end of the Council meeting there was a call from Labour, under Council rules to have their motion on Universal Credit voted on without debate. Quickly I asked for the same for our motion on Leeds Bradford Airport. We backed Labour to ensure their motion was put before the Council but then Labour, (with one or two honorable exceptions) voted against our motion being put. They really didn't want to discuss or vote on the motion at all.
Anticipating that this would happen, earlier in the meeting, I had submitted a question to the Deputy Leader of the Council, Councillor Peter McBride which said,
"Will you be calling for West Yorkshire Combined Authority to withdraw the £100 million of support it is providing for the expansion of Leeds Bradford Airport in light of the Climate Emergency that we and they have declared?"
His simple, unadorned, one word answer was "No". I pushed him in my supplementary question for a more serious answer to my question, to which he answered saying that the funding was for some sort of Park and Ride scheme and he effectively said it was nothing to do with airport expansion. There was clearly an illogical disconnect in his mind between developing extra transport capacity to Leeds Bradford Airport and its expansion.
Councillor McBride was also in the hot seat that evening to talk about progress under his Cabinet Portfolio. He mentioned that the Council would be promoting high energy efficiency standards in new housing. I welcomed this but then highlighted the 'performance gap' issue where housing, built supposedly in accordance with current building regulations, were using twice as much energy in operation as expected. So much as he might believe he was promoting high efficiency buildings that might not actually be the case in practice. As in previous meetings I then suggested the Council adopt 'Passivhaus' standards for new buildings which have a quality assurance system which ensures that buildings actually perform as expected and use around 75% less energy than a building built to current Building Regulation standards. I and Councillor Marchington from the Lib Dems highlighted other Councils that had successfully applied Passivhaus standards in new housing including the Sterling Prize winning 100 house scheme in Norwich. Councillor McBride then repeated a number of misunderstandings and myths around Passivhaus costs and the supposed complexity of living in a Passivhaus. This pretty much indicated that this wasn't a route he was going to go down.
We had considered Passivhaus in detail in the Climate Emergency Working Group where a lot of these issues that Cllr McBride raised were dealt with through evidence provided by an Observer on the Working Group, Chris Herring from the Passivhaus Trust . Hopefully some positive recommendations on the subject will appear in the Final Report. We will see.
What struck me is that even if the Final Report from the Climate Emergency Working Group is as radical and inspiring as I hope it is then it has the hurdle to overcome of the Labour Cabinet. After last nights performance I doubt the Council will do anything other than a very mediocre response to the very real Climate Emergency we face. Unfortunately mediocre doesn't cut it.