Activists disrupt Sheffield Council meeting claiming lack of action over climate emergency

Climate activists say: Time has run out.Climate activists say: Time has run out.
Climate activists say: Time has run out.
Climate activists have disrupted a meeting at Sheffield Town Hall as they demand more action from the city council after it declared a climate emergency.

Following a friendly demonstration outside the town hall, activists dropped a banner from the public gallery and chanted slogans towards councillors who they claim aren’t doing enough.

Dozens gathered outside the town hall yesterday (February 7) before the full council meeting to raise awareness of the progress – or the lack thereof – in the past five years since Sheffield declared a climate emergency in 2019.

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However, the council has only been able to reduce emissions by three per cent in the last four and a half years, the first annual climate report found.

L-R: Geoff Cox and John GrantL-R: Geoff Cox and John Grant
L-R: Geoff Cox and John Grant

At the demonstration, Geoff Cox, chair of South Yorkshire Climate Alliance, told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “Today (February 7) marks the fifth anniversary of Sheffield City Council declaring a climate emergency and it’s important to mark that to take stark that what progress has been made, what still needs to be done, is it being given the right priority in the council.

“The council has loads of conflict in priorities on it, we understand that, but there is no time to compromise anymore – no time for pragmatism – the measured approach, we haven’t got time for that anymore.

“We need to take this seriously now.”

Mr Cox said the council had an idea to get to net zero in 10 years – so the plan was to reduce emissions by 10 per cent a year.

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However, he added, “we’re nowhere near, are we, and it’s hugely sad”.

He said the demonstration was a message to the people in the council chamber and to the people concerned about this.

Mr Cox said: “It’s all to do with consciousness-raising which hopefully leads to action.”

He told the LDRS that as a tactic people being angry wouldn’t help the cause, that’s why his banner said “more sorrow than anger”.

“I can’t be angry anymore, I’ve got some anger left in me, I don’t want to use it up every day”, he said.

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He said: “If you want to engage people, you have to reach them where their starting point is. I think the reality is that a lot of people are desperately sad about the failure of the national government to take the lead and as a consequence of that not giving the latitude and the budget for the local government to play its part.”

John Grant, a climate scientist, told the LDRS that it was a “travesty, not an emergency” in Sheffield.

He said you couldn’t compare the response to the Covid pandemic to the so-called climate emergency.

Mr Grant said: “You can see the scale of response required but what everyone seems to want to do is that they want everything to remain the same and reduce carbon emissions. That’s the narrative.

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“But when anyone like me comes and says no, it’s energy production, transport, what we eat, what we build and we have to fundamentally shift all those for, everyone goes ‘sounds very expensive John’.”

Mr Grant said it wasn’t expensive as over the arch of the policies he was proposing, you’d have more jobs and you’d make more money.

He added it’s a circle – scientists have ideas, with evidence, but people don’t want change.

He called on the council to introduce “some real policies” – and not just to say we’d want to be at zero carbon by 2030.

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Later on, following the members’ questions – some of which were by climate campaigners from Extinction Rebellion (XR) – XR disrupted the meeting with a banner reading ‘Time has run out’ with a large hourglass being dropped over the balcony.

Activists sang the song ‘Do it Now’ to the tune of the Italian protest song Bella Ciao.

They also chanted slogans, such as “What do we want? Climate action! When do we want it? Now” and “Five years, what progress? Five years, no progress!”

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