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Climate change protestors urge Cambridgeshire County Councillors to take urgent action

By Ben Hatton, Local Democracy Reporter

Councillors had to step over protestors to enter Shire Hall for a county council meeting, while the group urged a Cambridge car-free day and demanded action on climate change.

Cambridgeshire’s full council met to approve a new plastics strategy, debate changes to the code of conduct, and consider motions on the Cambridge police station move, the living wage and other issues last Tuesday.

But on entering councillors were asked to take the message of urgent climate change action in with them, as about a dozen protestors partially blocked the entrances.

County council leader Councillor Steve Count talks to climate change protestors outside Shire Hall. (14334118)
County council leader Councillor Steve Count talks to climate change protestors outside Shire Hall. (14334118)

People were still able to access the building, but had to step over the linked arms of the protestors, who said it symbolised stepping over their futures.

Tom Darrington, 23, acting as spokesman for the group Cambridge Youth Extinction Rebellion, said: “The county council declared a climate emergency at its last meeting and we are here to remind them of that and to make sure every decision they make has that at the forefront. So when they approve a motion they have to think about how every action contributes to or limits the effects of climate change.

“We are locked onto each other and we are asking them to step over our arms and symbolically that represents them basically stepping over our future by prioritising infinite economic growth over the environment.”

The group said whatever the council decided in the meeting “it will all be for nothing” if climate change is not addressed.

Mr Darrington said he had personally suffered the effects of climate change, after contracting Lyme Disease, which he described as “debilitating” and a “climate disease”. With warmer temperatures, he said, “ticks now spread like wildfire”.

The group handed out flyers to passers-by expressing their three demands: to be honest about climate change, to act now, and to create a Citizens’ Assembly on climate and ecological justice.

After speaking with the protestors, leader of the council, Conservative Steve Count, said he supported lobbying for attention on issues where people feel passionately, but said the door-blocking was “unnecessary”.

Addressing the point of the protest he said: “They already have the county council on board. The majority of people in this council building are progressing with all the works that are possible to move forward our climate strategy, our waste strategy and our plastic strategy.”

He said environmental groups such as Friends of the Earth promote the council’s work on their websites. “It’s not enough yet,” he said, “and as we work towards this strategy we will put on the table everything that we are doing.”

Inside the chamber a member of Extinction Rebellion asked the county council to support a planned car-free day, which already has the unanimous support of the city council, but relies on the county council because it controls the highways.

The leader of the council said a car-free day is a “complex issue” and they would discuss with the city council “what might or might not be possible”.

But he said the public transport system does not have the capacity for everyone who might otherwise use a car.

Addressing the issue of a car-free day with protestors ahead of the meeting, he said: “That is a gesture, but it is not solving what you actually want to do which is to deliver less car transport in Cambridge.

“It won’t give you a solution but that’s what we are working towards.”

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