And it is hoped that the decision, made at the Cabinet meeting on Tuesday, June 11, will help to raise awareness of the threats of climate change, stimulate debate and issue a collective call to action to combat the rise in global temperatures.
The next step for the Council will be to initiate public consultation, with a focus on engaging young people on the next steps needed to tackle climate change in North Ayrshire.
A UK-wide movement to declare a climate emergency has been established, with a growing consensus that current targets and actions proposed by countries to date are insufficient to achieve the 2015 Paris Agreement to limit a rise in global temperatures.
North Ayrshire Council has been pro-active in establishing civic leadership to tackle climate change, with its first Environmental Sustainability and Climate Change Strategy (ESCCS) published in 2014 and updated in 2017.
The ESCCS included a goal to achieve a 40 percent reduction in carbon emissions by 2030, with progress currently ahead of schedule in meeting the target for the whole of North Ayrshire and the Council’s estate.
The Council has also delivered almost 10MW of installed renewable or low-carbon energy generation through their solar retrofit programme, biomass retrofit programme and landfill gas recovery schemes, as well as replacing over 60 per cent of street lighting across North Ayrshire with more energy efficient LED lighting.
A car club scheme was introduced to reduce emissions associated with staff business travel through the provision of low and zero carbon vehicles, and support has also been given to primary schools through the Primary School Energy Challenge, reducing energy consumption by 270 MWh and encouraging low carbon behaviours.
The next ESCCS is due for publication in 2021, however given the growing concerns at an international and national level in relation to insufficient progress in tackling climate change, and the particular concerns of young people in relation to this matter, consultation will now be initiated with a view to preparing the next ESCCS as soon as possible.
It is proposed that the consultation, entitled ‘Climate Change: Just Cool It’, will be launched online in August of this year and promoted in early years centres, primary and secondary schools and further education establishments across North Ayrshire, as well as by schools, Youth Services, MSYPs, Community Councils and Locality Partnerships.
Feedback will then be collated, reviewed and used to inform preparation of the third ESCSS for consideration in 2020.
Councillor Jim Montgomerie, Cabinet Member for Place, said: “By declaring a Climate Change Emergency we are acknowledging just how serious a situation we are currently in.
“The United Nations estimates that we have just 11 years remaining before climate change becomes irreversible, and we cannot afford to sit back and let that happen.
“While we have worked hard to reduce North Ayrshire’s carbon footprint, there is more to be done and raising awareness is a crucial part of that.
“Our young people are more engaged than ever when it comes to environmental issues, and I look forward to hearing their views and opinions on what further steps we could take.”