This Wednesday the Lancaster and Morecambe city council unanimously declared a state of climate emergency. The motion was submitted by labour councillor Kevin Frea and crucially supported by schoolgirl Rosie Mills’ petition (signed by 1500 local young people).
The declaration follows those already made by city councils across the country, including Scarborough, Brighton, and Oxford.
Lancaster, Brighton, and Scarborough are areas located close to the sea, clearly well placed to be the first to witness the effects of rising sea levels. Perhaps, expediting the process of climate emergency declaration. However, these petitions and motions are a global act of cooperation, in fact, 28 cities have now announced such a declaration, reminding us that climate change has no borders and as a result solutions must be extranational.
These declarations seem to be riding the wave of the explosive Extinction Rebellion protests of 2018, fuelled by collective shock at the lack of will and political inertia displayed by the Westminster establishment. Similar to the protests by the extinction rebellion group these declarations fit a wide net of collective and direct action that, instead of appealing to often inaccessible politicians, targets locally at city and town councils. With a call for a citizen assembly, they fit into the vein of direct democracy, which seeks to include all strata of society when finding local solutions to the global problem of climate change.
The addition of Lancaster and Morecambe to the list of cities declaring climate emergency shows the power of cooperative, grass-roots movements in effecting change outside the slowing moving machine of parliamentary politics. However, this is only the beginning and if we are to avert the crisis facing us in the next 12 years we need more declarations, protests and particularly the strong voices of the youth, like Rosie Mills. As the 16-year-old climate activist Greta Thunberg demanded at the world economic forum this week “I don’t want your hope. I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act”.
When 71% of emissions are caused by just 100 companies, we must remember that change will not be made by those in power or those who have something to gain from the world as it is, but instead it will be made by the people, particularly the people who will be affected the most, the youth.
We should be thankful for the activists of Lancaster for making this bold step and for the wider movement for supporting them but most of all, we must act!