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WILDLIFE ISSUES: ‘ecological emergency’ call to tackle threats

WILDLIFE ISSUES: ‘ecological emergency’ call to tackle threats

Jonathan Elmer who is standing for the Green Party in the City of Durham, Image: Paul Norris

Leaders in the region should declare an “ecological emergency” to tackle threats to our landscapes and wildlife, a council meeting has heard.

Green Party Councillor Jonathan Elmer said the issues affecting wildlife was as urgent as the higher profile climate change crisis which was being addressed locally with a climate emergency response plan.

He told councillors: “The ecological crisis is perhaps less well understood but its correction is equally urgent and requires profound change.

“County Durham, like the rest of the country and the world, has suffered a catastrophic crash of species and habitats that collectively form our natural systems.

“There is no question that we are currently experiencing an ecological emergency.

“This situation remains, despite the excellent work that the council has delivered in relation to the North Pennines AONB (Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty), the Heritage Coast, the coalfields restoration work and many other worthy projects.”

He urged the council to declare an ecological emergency, review services to stop activities which harm ecosystems and find opportunities to enhance those ecosystems.

The Brandon ward councillor added: “In short, will the council adopt the same approach to tackling the ecological emergency as it has for the related climate emergency?”

He referred to a House of Commons environmental audit committee report on the UK’s biodiversity, ‘Bloom or Bust?’, which said populations of mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles and fish had decreased 68% since 1970, with 15% of species threatened with extinction.

Lib Dem Cllr Mark Wilkes, cabinet member for neighbourhoods and climate change, said he shared Cllr Elmer’s passion for the natural environment, ecology and climate.

He said: “The ecological systems that maintain our planet are under serious and severe pressure. Of that there is no doubt.

“The landscape and natural habitat of County Durham, the Heritage Coast, our rivers, dales, valleys, uplands and pennines, are some of our key assets.

“While there has been historically significant improvement to our post-industrial landscape and wildlife habitats, Cllr Elmer is correct to point out there remains much more to do.

“In order to give this issue proper consideration, I will commit to bring a report to cabinet in October to set out a way forward to the questions that are raised, with a view to declaring an ecological emergency once we are cognisant of the implications for the council.

“Our goal will be to tackle the ecological challenges we face as a county, making sure that we protect and improve our wildlife and our landscapes.

“It is my view that we should embed into everything that we do a consideration not only of our climate impact but also of our ecological impacts, and to promote improvement and protection of our county’s environment.”


Words: Gareth Lightfoot, Local Democracy Reporter

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