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Dorset councillors and Dorset Council officers are to meet with staff from Gillingham Town Council and other local councils who want to reduce their carbon footprint after declaring a state of ‘climate emergency’.

There are also plans for members of the public to be given the chance to put forward their ideas about how local communities can fight against climate change.

Those are two of the outcomes after Dorset Council’s Climate Change Executive Advisory Panel met to listen to members from Extinction Rebellion and discuss the Council’s progress with their plans to tackle climate change.

The panel, made up of councillors from across the political divide, is responsible for working with officers to gather information and make recommendations on how the Council can help fight against climate change and support communities to do the same.

The meeting on Friday 13 September began with Councillor Ray Bryan reminding the panel of its role and how it fits into the council’s democratic process, making recommendations to Dorset Council’s Cabinet.

Next came an emotive and well-received presentation from members of Extinction Rebellion, urging that action be taken to overcome the public’s collective denial of the seriousness of climate change and get to grips with the problem. They also outlined the catastrophic consequences of failing to act and provided broad ideas for how Dorset can play its part.

The panel then discussed Dorset Council’s role in supporting town and parish councils who have declared their own climate emergencies and wish to reduce their carbon footprint. Plans are being drawn up for DC councillors and officers to meet with these councils and further promote the work of the Low Carbon Dorset programme, which has already helped many public sector organisations.

Members of Dorset Council’s Climate Change Technical Officers group then presented a summary of their work so far, including feedback on the ideas and priorities of the panel itself. Common themes have been gathered under five key areas: Buildings, Waste & Energy, Leadership & Influence, Transport, and the Natural Environment.

Officers also commented on the Friends of the Earth 33 Actions Local Authorities Can Take on Climate Change paper, outlining what Dorset Council is already doing and what other actions could potentially be investigated and developed.

The panel session closed with councillors discussing the importance of continued input from community groups and organisations, with a focus on engaging with young people. There was discussion of an upcoming Inquiry Day to be held in late November, inviting members of the public to present their ideas for fighting climate change directly to the panel.

Further details on how people can get involved will be publicised in due course.

Members also made it clear that the work of the group needs to be collated and published online so the public can see what is happening.

Councillor Ray Bryan, panel chairman and Cabinet Member for Highways, Travel and Environment, said: ‘I’m really pleased with the progress being made by both the panel and our Technical Officers group. Despite the sheer scale of the challenge ahead of us, we’re gathering real momentum and I’m pleased that we’ll be getting some information regarding our progress on the website soon.

‘I’d like to thank Extinction Rebellion for coming in to speak to us and we’re really looking forward to inviting other organisations and individuals to present their ideas and priorities to the panel to help us develop our approach. We’re especially keen to engage with local young people and are now looking at ways to get them involved in helping us draw up our climate change mitigation plans.

‘Climate change will affect all of us in some way in the future. Dorset Council has an important role to play in helping fight against this existential threat and we have a responsibility to support our residents and communities to do the same.’

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