The Cabinet considered a report of the Corporate Director of Neighbourhoods and Climate Change that responded to the Environment and Sustainable Communities Overview and Scrutiny Committee report to Cabinet on the consideration of an ecological emergency. Cabinet were asked to formally declare an ecological emergency for County Durham (for copy of report see file of minutes).
The Leader welcomed to the meeting the Chair and Vice Chair of the Environment and Sustainable Communities Overview and Scrutiny Committee. Councillor Bev Coult, Chair of the Committee presented to Cabinet the work of the Committee. She gave the background in that Cabinet had requested that the Overview and Scrutiny undertake a review, and report back to Cabinet within six months, having considered the evidence in relation to biodiversity decline and make a recommendation in relation to declaration of an ecological emergency.
She advised of the meetings that had taken place receiving evidence from the Neighbourhoods and Climate Change Service Grouping and from partners of biodiversity decline at an international, national, regional and local level. The committee recognised that the Council and partners have undertaken many projects to restore and protect wildlife and habitats in the county with its semi-natural habitats were clearly under significant pressure and the loss or poor condition of these habitats would impact negatively on local species.
The evidence presented clearly showed declines in various bird species, herptiles; mammals; fish; butterflies and extinction or significant decline in bumblebee species at a local level.
The Chair of the Ecological Emergency Workstream of the Environment and Climate Change Partnership and Director of the North Pennines AONB attended the February meeting and confirmed that there was an ecological emergency and that there had been a catastrophic decline in nature resulting in an ecological crisis.
Councillor Coult advised that having considered the evidence provided it was unanimously agreed by the Committee to recommend to Cabinet that DCC declares an ecological emergency. In addition, it was also agreed by members that should Cabinet decide to declare then Cabinet also considers further additional recommendations which were detailed within the report.
Councillor Wilkes thanked the Chair and Vice Chair and the committee for this work, they had responded to the challenge set them and had produced this thorough report in the timeline set. He supported the recommendation to declare an ecological emergency and advised that officers would now bring this to life by coming forward with an action plan to tackle this. Councillors Rowlandson and Bell also advised of their support for the declaration being made.
The recommendations in the report be approved.