BCP's Conservative councillors refuse to endorse Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty

24 February 2022

BCP's ruling group of Conservative councillors have voted down a proposal by Green Councillors Chris Rigby and Simon Bull for BCP Council to endorse the call for a global Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty.

39 municipal authorities, including Los Angeles, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Sydney, Bonn and Toronto, have already endorsed the call for a treaty, in addition to over 2,500 scientists, academics and researchers. 

The three urgent demands of the global movement campaigning for a treaty are:

  • End new expansion of fossil fuel production in line with the best available science as outlined by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the United Nations Environment Programme;
  • Phase out existing production of fossil fuels in a manner that is fair and equitable, taking into account the respective dependency of countries on fossil fuels, and their capacity to transition;
  • Invest in a transformational plan to ensure 100% access to renewable energy globally, support fossil fuel-dependent economies to diversify away from fossil fuels, and enable people and communities across the globe to flourish through a global just transition.

Chris Rigby: Signing treaty "not an onerous ask"

Chris Rigby proposing Fossil Fuels Non-Proliferation TreatyProposing the motion at Full Council this Tuesday, Councillor Chris Rigby said: "This isn't an onerous ask. It's not asking for hours of officer time, it's not asking for loads of research to be done. All it's asking is to add our voice as BCP Council to those of an increasing number of cities and local authorities around the world, to speak as one demanding a just transition away from fossil fuels to renewable energy. 

"This doesn't mean cutting off the gas supply tomorrow, [or] getting rid of heating oil overnight, but working towards removing fossil fuels from all of our lives. Transitioning the workers in the oil and gas industry, who have got a great skillset, to more sustainable employment. Move people away from fossil fuels in everyday life. 

"It's what we need to do, to prevent the climate crisis. We can't have a sustainable future as well as a carbon-based economy. Research suggests that the burning of fossil fuels is responsible for about 80% of carbon emissions since the Industrial Revolution.

Simon Bull seconding endorsement for Fossil Fuels Non-Proliferation Treaty"We're just one council here, but we can be at the forefront of change... So we can lead more local authorities to follow us in signing this treaty, and striving towards our zero-carbon future."

Seconding the motion, Green Councillor Simon Bull said: "In my opinion this is a logical step, to follow on from the local Climate & Ecological Emergency, and work we've heard about. BCP Council should join the cities mentioned in the motion, and take the lead by agreeing it. It's what we need to do."

Local Conservatives claim we "don't have the evidence" that green transition will be economically beneficial

However, the motion was opposed by BCP Conservatives' sustainability chief, Councillor Mike Greene.

Cllr Greene said: "Item 5 of the motion asks us to agree that the economic benefits of transition to greener forms of energy far outweigh those of using fossil fuels. I really hope that's true, but I haven't got the evidence to support it."

Bizarrely, Cllr Greene went on to suggest that concern for household energy bills is a reason to equivocate on green transition. He said: "I just don't have the analysis." His speech showed no awareness that building new renewables is now cheaper than burning fossil fuels - or the role of Europe's reliance on Russian oil and gas, on the eve of Russia declaring war on Ukraine, in the record-breaking current level of UK energy bills. He further suggested that the energy supply framework is a matter for "the market".

He claimed that BCP Council cannot possibly be expected to come to a view on the accuracy of what he claimed are "enormous risks" presented by a Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty.

"Putting obstacles in the way"... "All hot air"

Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty debate at BCP Full Council 22.02.22In the debate that followed, Councillor Vikki Slade (Lib Dem), former Leader of BCP Council, said to the Conservative Cabinet: "You've told us you want to invest in innovative ideas that will deal with carbon reduction. Here is your opportunity, yet you are putting obstacles in the way. You've accused the minority groups of not being ambitious enough. And yet here you have the minority groups asking you to be ambitious... by actually saying you will invest in carbon-friendly projects. You are not being asked to do intensive research."

"I think it's completely hypocritical for you to want to be part of UK100, which I completely support, and want to be on the A List, which I completely support, and then at the same time say ooh no, hang on a minute, we don't want to do anything which might prove inconvenient."

"The actual request is that you endorse the call for a Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty. The actual request is that you send a letter to the Prime Minister urging him to support the global initiative. Frankly, there are other things you've written letters about which are far less important than this. And I think if you are genuinely interested in climate change, you would do this. If you don't, then it's all hot air."

Chris Rigby: Conservative opposition "not surprising at all" given national policies

Summing up the debate, Councillor Chris Rigby said: "I'm not really that surprised to hear Councillor Greene oppose this. It wasn't long ago Conservative MPs were speaking in favour of drilling in the North Sea, claiming it's needed for the economy - somehow saying the transition to Net Zero needs more extraction. The Conservative Government continues with a maximum extraction policy for fossil fuels. Rishi Sunak himself gave an announcement he wants to encourage more investment into new fossil fuels. Just a few weeks ago, the Abigail oilfield in the North Sea was approved, with the Government concluding it would not have 'a significant effect' on the environment.  

"So it doesn't surprise me at all that what the Conservatives in Westminster are saying is exactly echoed here as well.

"With this in mind, I ask you: do you want to see oil rigs coming back offshore, into Poole Bay? Because that's where this maximum extraction policy is heading. So the only way we're going to see change is by making change, and we can do that."

Earlier this year: Conservatives reject Simon Bull's call for local offshore wind

Green Councillor Simon Bull appeared in the Bournemouth Echo earlier this year, again championing an offshore wind farm in Dorset. He was quoted saying "the local authority should not “close the door on anything without proper investigation... forceful measures and real action” are needed to tackle climate change.

Yet BCP Conservatives remain flatly opposed. Council Leader Drew Mellor was quoted in the Echo saying: It is certainly not something we are looking at. We don’t feel we need to."

Offshore wind has 84% UK public support.

The full text of the defeated motion

This Council:

1. Notes the “Glasgow Pact” Agreed at COP26 in November 2021 recognizes that the impacts of climate change will be much lower at the temperature increase of 1.5°C compared with 2°C and resolves to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C

2. Notes the same document Calls upon Parties to accelerate the development, deployment and dissemination of technologies, and the adoption of policies, to transition towards low-emission energy systems, including by rapidly scaling up the deployment of clean power generation and energy efficiency measures, including accelerating efforts towards the phasedown of unabated coal power and phase-out of inefficient fossil fuel subsidies, while providing targeted support to the poorest and most vulnerable in line with national circumstances and recognizing the need for support towards a just transition;

3. Notes that the recent report from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), has been described as ‘a code red for humanity’ by the Secretary General of the United Nations

4. Notes that global governments and the fossil fuel industry are currently planning to produce an estimated 120% more emissions by 2030 than what is needed to limit warming to 1.5°C and avert catastrophic climate disruption, and that this risks undermining global efforts to reduce climate-changing pollution

5. Notes that the economic opportunities presented by a clean energy transition far outweigh the opportunities presented by an economy supported by expanding fossil fuel use and extraction

6. Notes BCP Councils own declaration of a climate and ecological emergency in July 2019

7. Notes BCP Council and the wider community is committed to targets of net zero by 2030 and the BCP conurbation target of net zero by 2050, and recognises the current work underway to meet these targets

8. Believes that BCP Council should be committed, as part of our Climate Emergency response, to a just energy transition and to ambitious investments in green infrastructure and industries that will create jobs and rapidly decarbonize our economy;

9. Recognises a new global initiative is underway calling for a Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty that would end new fossil fuel exploration and expansion, phase out existing production in line with the global commitment to limit warming to 1.5°C, and accelerate a just transition to renewable energy

10. Notes that other leading cities including Barcelona, Toronto, Los Angeles, Sydney, and Cambridge (UK) have endorsed the call for a Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty

11. Therefore, BCP Council endorses the call for a Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty

12. Further that the relevant portfolio holder, on behalf of BCP Council send a letter to the Prime Minister of The United Kingdom urging the UK Government to support the global initiative for a Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty.


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