Climate change: call for county to do more to reduce carbon emissions

Some councils have called a "climate emergency"
Some councils have called a "climate emergency"

Lancashire county councillors have declined to declare a “climate emergency”, after disagreeing over how best to make a local impact on global warming.

Dozens of councils across the country have made the call in recent weeks, but County Hall members voted the move down - and also rejected committing the county to tougher targets for reducing carbon emissions than have been adopted nationally.

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Labour’s Erica Lewis, who proposed the motion, said the threat of climate change was “not one just for the future, but for many people around the planet is real now”. But Conservative cabinet member for economic development and the environment, Michael Green, said the use of the word 'emergency' was “over the top”.

The motion requested that Lancashire County Council committed to making all of its operations carbon neutral by 2030 and requested the government provide the funding and powers they needed to realise that ambition.

“I recognise climate change is an important issue that we need to tackle for the sake of present and future generations,” County Cllr Green said.

“[But] there is no immediate threat to residents or businesses. Putting it frankly, [the motion] is simply being alarmist.

“Making the activities of LCC carbon neutral by 2030 is over-ambitious [and] would likely remove substantial levels of funding from the services relied upon by our residents,” he added.

The meeting heard that a commitment made by Lancashire County Council a decade ago to reduce its carbon emissions by a third by 2020 was actually met four years earlier than planned.

But the authority’s lone Green Party member, Gina Dowding, said there was nothing to fear about speeding up a push for cleaner energy.

“There’s lots of positives that can come out of this commitment and there's often too much of negative response that this kind of change could in some way restrict us - but actually it’s win-win.

“Because it’s not just about protecting the future, but creating a better quality of life now for all our residents. Things are taking too long - with this commitment, you could push [them] forward and grasp every opportunity at creating green jobs,” said County Coun Dowding, who added that there was £3.6m of unused capital funding in the county's budget for that purpose.

Nationally, the UK strengthened its commitment to reducing carbon emissions three years ago, when it pledged to cut them by 57 per cent of 1990 levels by 2030.

County Coun Green tabled an amendment which removed the reference to a climate emergency and requested a review of the council’s operations to “help identify” how it might become carbon neutral by 2030.

But after failing to get the amendment ruled out of order for contradicting her own, County Coun Lewis condemned the changed wording.

“I think it is appalling that County Coun Green says there’s no immediate threat to residents in this county from climate change.

“Tell that to the people who flooded in my [Lancaster] division. Tell that to the people who have been moved out of their homes for months, because what we were told is a one in a hundred year event happens year after year, she said.

Conservative member Charlie Edwards said he wanted to champion the good work already being done within the authority, including by a team council officers focusing on improving air quality and a cross-party group working to reduce single-use plastics.

“[Because of] the responsible investment policy of the Lancashire pension fund, Lancashire pensioners are the biggest owner of wind turbines in Portugal,” he said.