The climate emergency motion was put forward by Councillor Alex Cox, and councillors discussed the matter at the town council meeting last Tuesday evening (September 24) following the presentation.
Coun George Horton, a magistrate, left the council chamber prior to Mr Rushby’s speech, saying it was against his principles as a Justice of the Peace (JP) to engage with an organisation with the word ‘rebellion’ in the name - and he questioned the ethics of the town council for inviting an Extinction Rebellion representative to speak.
Several other magistrates, including Coun Sue Crew and Coun Andrew Leonard, took part in the subsequent debate but later abstained from voting on the motion.
Mr Rushby began his presentation with a plea to councillors to work to the best of their abilities “for their children and grandchildren”.
“Everything we know today, as normal, will be different. Everything has to change, and it will change whether we do anything or not.”
He warned that the planet would face a ‘catastrophic collapse’ if things don’t change, and added: “Business as usual will lead to extinction by the end of this century”.
Mr Rushby went on to quote Winston Churchill, who, in 1936, said of the impending threat of Nazism: “The era of procrastination, of half-measures, of soothing and baffling expedients, of delays is coming to its close. In its place we are entering a period of consequences.”
In terms of what the town council could do to help, Mr Rushby said that local authorities around the country were declaring climate emergencies in order to ‘nudge’ the national government into action.
He concluded: “Vote with your conscience, and think of your grandchildren, as I think of mine every day.”
Coun Alex Cox thanked Mr Rushby, and said the public is ahead of the politicians with regard to climate change.
He added it would be a ‘breach of our duty’ for the council not to declare a climate emergency based on ‘the facts we know today’.
In response to concerns raised by Coun Sue Crew, Coun Cox added that the motion itself did not mention ‘Extinction Rebellion’, and the council would not be ‘allying’ itself with the organisation by backing the motion.
Coun Jill Makinson-Sanders said that the town council already carries out many of the actions listed in the motion, and added that she did not want young people - including her grandchildren - to be ‘worried stiff’ by suggestions that the planet is facing extinction.
Coun Hannah Filer said that if town councillors already fulfil the criteria listed in the motion, then it is ‘fantastic’ - and added that councillors should put these actions into an official framework by voting to support the motion.
• The climate emergency motion was carried by 13 votes to nil, with three abstentions.