One of the first acts of the new co-operative alliance running Lewes District Council was to declare a climate emergency. Councillors from all political parties backed the co-operative alliance's plan to take forward a range of measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and become climate resilient by 2030, in common with many other authorities across the UK. Liberal Democrat Councillor Christine Brett seconded the motion and Liberal Democrat Councillor Rob Banks spoke in favour of the motion:
"No-one thinks that our district on its own can successfully tackle this huge global crisis. But we can take a lead and do our bit. There are now well over 100 Councils all over the country setting out to get a grip on this crisis in their own communities. It is important to learn together, work together and make progress together with all these councils.
"We want the District Council to work with other councils and organisations to help prevent a catastrophe for our children and grandchildren.
"It will be crucial to involve the whole community in all our towns and villages. We need to involve people in providing ideas and action, provide more information on what is happening and what can be done about it, and take a lead in making the changes that will be needed. At the same time we can learn from the ideas and actions of other Councils across the land, and work closely with them.
"In 1979 what was happening to our climate was a growing concern even then. In 2019 it is an emergency. In 2030 it is game over because this is when scientists tell us that climate change is irreversible damage. It is ridiculous to think that people not even born yet have to wait to be adults before we can achieve this.
"I won’t be able to look my children in the eye and say I did nothing. There is a recognition of a need to take urgent action. Science proving this is stark and robust and we need to implement the policies to deal with it.
"Co-operating together on this issue is so important, and I hope all groups on the council can work together on this.
"The motion sets us on a clear path of carbon reduction. Not only will we set our own house in order, but we will inspire others to act and create the conditions for them to do so. The Council’s decisions come with a climate impact assessment, so that this emergency is always at the front of our minds, and for the Council to be a leader in the community through education and information.
"I want to see bold action on climate change. Amendments to planning rules can allow residents to update their homes to cut energy consumption – saving money as well as the planet – and of course, any new homes should be as energy efficient as possible."
Rob cited examples from other Liberal Democrat authorities, saying:
"Eastleigh Borough council requires housing developments to be more energy efficient than national building regulation standards and encourages passivhaus home development.
"It was in the early 2000s that Sutton helped pioneer the Beddington Zero Energy Development. They are currently working with partners to build a Passivhaus Secondary school.
"South Somerset is creating a new energy storage facility, which will be the largest council-owned battery storage system in the UK. It will provide instantly available electrical power, on demand to the National Grid. It will also bring in much needed funding for the authority.
"Cornwall is supporting a project to explore geothermal energy and Bedford with hydro-electric power."
Paying tribute to the hard work of Liberal Democrat District councillors in the previous council including Sarah Osborne and Vic Ient, Rob added:
"This council has already made a good start – to give just a few examples - by investing in solar panels on council owned buildings – including council housing stock; it has changed planning policy so all new buildings need to have external charging points and so each new home built includes a renewable energy scheme, and charging points for electric vehicles. Let’s build on that good work and go forward together across the council with all political groups involved."
The alliance consists of Liberal Democrat, Green Party, Labour and Independent members. The Climate Emergency motion was passed by all parties on the council.