Should Rye declare a climate emergency?

The flooded Strand Quay, Rye after the tidal surge in December 2013. Anticipated sea level rises will overwhelm current flood defences

Rother Environmental Group (REG) held an open meeting at the George at the end of January to discuss pressing issues about the environment and strategies to address them. Arguably, there are none so pressing as climate change with the IPCC (International Panel on Climate Change) warning on last October that we have only 12 years left to avert catastrophic, civilisation threatening, climate change; recent articles suggest it could be even less.

The challenge is great, and the REG meeting was small, but mighty oak trees from little acorns grow, so we start here.

Its difficult to focus on such global issues such as climate change, without feeling ever so slightly helpless; there’s so much to change that even to start feels like a futile gesture. And there are issues closer at hand that so obviously need to be addressed; the rubbish on our beaches and rivers getting worse and increasing after every litter pick; roadside litter is just as bad and can only be attributed to drivers; there’s an increasing volume of single-use plastic that cannot be recycled; fly-tipping is on the up due to lack of enforcement.

The issues may be systemic as local government scales bacj services, as a result of cuts to funds, but they stem from a general lack of connection to our local environment, and lack of appreciation for its fundamental importance in our lives. Are we solving any long-term issues by organising more litter picks when the litter is still being dropped?

Our meeting agreed on one thing, that to change anything in the long term we need to educate our children to care for their environment, to teach them that ultimately their future lifestyles (or even their lives) depend on sustaining healthy, robust, local environment – before we can even consider the global issues.

But we are not leading by example. The 16-year-old activist Greta Thunberg is leading a new generation of children fighting for change – School Strikes for Climate Action – instigating a series of school strikes firstly in Sweden, but spreading across the world, with the 1st UK-wide Youth Strike 4 Climate scheduled for Friday, February 15. Greta made a speech to world leaders at Davos last month:

“Adults keep saying ‘We owe it to the young people to give them hope’. But I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act. I want you to act as you would in a crisis. I want you to act as if our house is on fire. Because it is.”

A growing number of UK cities and local councils are declaring a”Climate Emergency’” with Bristol and Manchester among the first and the total number now standing at more than 20. The declaration emphasises the urgency and focuses action on strategies needed to make change happen. Bristol for example has committed to becoming carbon neutral by 2030, while Manchester has promised to phase out fossil fuels by 2038. We have the technical expertise to get there, we just need the political will.

We owe it to our children to take the lead. REG will be starting a petition to Rother District Council to declare climate emergency. We will also be seeking the opinions of the candidates for the forthcoming elections in May. It’s time to push for change, please join us.

Image Credits: John Minter .


  1. What goes around comes around
    Global warming and Climate Change is a part of a natural cycle and there nothing we can actually do to stop these cycles the world is facing a vast amount of money in tax to try to solve a problem that doesn’t actually exsist what goes around comes around.
    We had dinosaurs roaming about not so far away in tropical weather then 2 ice ages.cyclones,hurricanes,landslides,volcanic eruptions,flooding and land
    Erosion many many years before we had any technology to report these
    Events so nothing new just scare mongering from the world leaders so what goes around comes around,try to get home insurance from the sun alliance you won’t they won’t insure you in fear of flooding to your home where I live at the moment
    But saying that these so called scientists know better
    The salts and fish market road was once a place for mooring boats underneath hilders cliff in 1976 we had a severe drought water standpipes was use all over the country in the years 2000 and 2012 was the wettest on record so what goes around comes around
    So when the IPCC ( international panel on Climate Change) warning us that we only have 12 years or less to avert catastrophic threatening climate change.
    So what is the answer .???

  2. I find these comments perfectly true, having lived in Rye for 70 plus years I have seen many changes in this area. Having lived on Tillingham green estate 55 years never seen a serious flood that has not been dealt with very quickly. Ernest.


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