POWYS Liberal Democrats are up in arms over Tory-Independent councillors’ misleading statements about a parliamentary Bill aiming to reverse the dramatic decline in UK wildlife.
Llanfyllin County Councillor Peter Lewis last week railed against a Liberal Democrat Motion asking Powys County Council (PCC) to support the Climate and Ecological Emergency (CEE) Bill, accusing the opposition group of providing “a political platform for the activist group Extinction Rebellion” (XR).
His comments follow those of Powys County Council (PCC) Leader Rosemarie Harris who last month recommended fellow councillors reject the CEE Bill because of its associations with the environmental protest group.
The CEE Bill aims to set legally binding targets on reversing nature’s decline in the UK and taking the necessary steps to limit global warming to 1.5 °C above pre-industrial averages.
Originally tabled by Caroline Lucas MP in 2019, the Bill has 12 sponsor MP’s from different political parties, among them Liberal Democrat Leader Ed Davey. The 29 expert contributors to the Bill’s development include former Government Chief Scientific Advisor Sir David King, renowned entomologist Professor Dave Goulson of the University of Sussex, and Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report lead Dr Joeri Rogelj of Imperial College London.
The CEE Bill has the support of 118 MP’s, 29 peers (including one Conservative) and 138 councils. Several of the supporting councils have large Conservative majorities, such as Derbyshire Dales District Council and Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council.
Explaining his decision to vote against the Liberal Democrats’ Climate and Ecological Motion at a county council meeting after supporting the motion in a Llanfyllin Town Council meeting the previous week, Cllr Lewis said: “XR… are known to condone such activity as the recent protests on motorways that are both life-threatening and cause mass disruption… It seemed evident to me that the opposition was using this [CEE Bill] as a platform for the activist group Extinction Rebellion.”
Powys Liberal Democrats have strongly condemned the councillors’ comments.
Speaking on behalf of Brecon and Radnorshire and Montgomeryshire Liberals Democrats, B&R Chair Cllr Jackie Charlton, a co-signatory of the Motion to PCC, said: “The suggestion that this motion was being driven by groups that have no democratic mandate is absurd.
“The Liberal Democrats are an elected group of councillors with wider community backing as was demonstrated by the many letters of support from individuals and from both Radnorshire and Montgomeryshire Wildlife Trusts.
“Our democracy is in real trouble because nobody trusts elected representatives to speak the truth anymore. Nobody knows who to believe. When politicians get things wrong they must be corrected. Not only are these statements about the Lib Dems wrong, but they are also factually incorrect – XR didn’t condone Insulate Britain’s blocking of the motorways.
“The UN Environmental Programmes released a report ahead of the UN Biodiversity Conference earlier this month in China. The report exposes the massive biodiversity crisis right here in the UK, which is at the bottom of the pile and losing biodiversity at an alarming rate, in fact, one of the worst-performing nations in the world for protecting biodiversity. The report highlighted the main reasons for this loss - over development and intensive agriculture.
“I’m awaiting a response from the portfolio holder on how Powys County Council will now move forward on taking a stand against the massive crisis heading our way, with the loss of habitat, often hidden, in our uplands, rivers and valleys. We have seen how the Wye is dying, we have experienced the floods and we know peat bogs are disappearing at an alarming rate. All these habitats and many more are in our Council area.”