Council Silences Shouts of ‘Fire’!

Rebels disrupted the cabinet meeting of the Borough Council of King’s Lynn and West Norfolk today, following record-breaking temperatures that saw over 300 wildfires burning across Norfolk.  

Eight protestors from our group entered the Assembly Room of King’s Lynn Town Hall where councillors were meeting, and shouted “2050 is too late, Norfolk is on fire!” repeatedly. We carried placards and photographs of some of the fires that have devastated West Norfolk, including one that destroyed several homes in Brancaster Staithe, and another that burnt part of Wild Ken Hill reserve, where BBC Springwatch is filmed. The Council muted the livestream of the meeting so that our message couldn’t be heard by the wider public.

The council has set a target of net zero emissions across West Norfolk by 2050, but a 2050 target means continuing to make the problem worse for another 28 years. Net zero by 2050 is too late, and allows current councillors to kick the can down the road and leave to their successors to deal with.  

Protestor Jenny Walker, from Roydon, said “the council have barely made a start with cutting carbon emissions. Their progress is at a snail’s pace, but this – in the council’s own words – is an emergency. The council declared a climate emergency last summer, and now we’ve all seen with our own eyes how serious an emergency it is, so why aren’t they acting like it’s an emergency?” 

The council has set a date of 2035 to reach net zero from their own activities and buildings, but that covers less than 1% of emissions in West Norfolk. West Norfolk has the highest emissions in Norfolk, but by focusing only on their own emissions the council is addressing the smaller fire while leaving the larger fire to burn. 

The science is crystal clear. Earlier this year the United Nations called the climate crisis ‘Code Red for humanity’, and a new report published this week highlights the risk that runaway climate change could lead to the collapse of civilization, and even the possibility of human extinction. The only way to avoid the worst impacts of climate change is to stop burning fossil fuels and stop destroying nature. 

Norfolk is already suffering from the impacts of climate change. In addition to the heatwave and the fires it triggered, the east of England is suffering a historic drought, with many ponds and rivers running dry. Around the country, many farmers have suffered agricultural failure due to heatwaves and the fact that rainfall and frosts occurring at unusual times. But perhaps the biggest climate threat to West Norfolk comes from sea level rise, because much of the district is at or below sea level. Within the next 30 years, floods as severe as the famous 1953 flood, which killed over 3000 people across East Anglia and Holland, are expected to happen every year.   

Climate change will continue to worsen so long as we are using fossil fuels, so decarbonizing our economy should be considered the number one priority for all levels of government, including local authorities. However the budget that the council has allocated to climate action is woefully insufficient. As one of the most vulnerable places in the country, West Norfolk cannot afford to wait or to take risks. As residents of West Norfolk, we demand that the council do everything in their power to keep us safe.   

Local resident Dr Charlie Gardner, a scientist who took part in the protest, said “The reason people lost their homes in the devastating fires is that governments and the media have spent the last 40 years ignoring the warnings of scientists, and taking action on climate change. Now we can all see the deadly impacts and this is just the beginning, yet still the council refuses to treat it seriously. They are failing to keep us safe and are just allowing the crisis to get worse. It’s an absolute scandal, and we call on the people of West Norfolk to rise up and demand action to save our homes and the places we love.”

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