Sun, 06 Jan 2019
THE Green Party prospective parliamentary candidate for Newbury has called on the district’s councillors to bring forward its target to achieve a net zero carbon status.
Steve Masters urged members of the local authority’s executive committee to “aim for the stars and reach for the moon” in its bid to become a net zero carbon zone by 2030.
The UK is currently targeting a reduction of 80 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 – and West Berkshire’s own aims to reduce carbon emissions are aligned to this.
But in the last meeting of the council’s executive committee of 2018, Jeannette Clifford, the council’s portfolio holder for transport and the countryside (Con, Northcroft), told Mr Masters that setting a target year of 2030 was not feasible.
Mrs Clifford reiterated the local authority’s commitment to protecting the environment and promoting the long-term sustainability of the district, which she said was “immensely important” to the council.
But she stopped short of promising environmental activist Mr Masters that the council could achieve a net zero carbon status two decades earlier than currently planned.
Mrs Clifford told him: “We are ready to play our part in transitioning to net zero carbon status.
“Like you, we support the goal of net zero carbon in West Berkshire.
“We take pride in the leading role this Government is playing in response to climate change, putting clean growth at the heart of its industrial strategy.”
Electric charging points, encouraging active transport, investment in public and community transport, cycling and walking routes and energy-saving lamps were among the many initiatives the council had already worked towards, Mrs Clifford said.
She also insisted that two of the district’s future primary schools – Highwood Copse and Theale Primary School – would involve the “smallest carbon footprint as possible” when being built.
In response, Mr Masters urged both sides of the chamber to sign his e-petition to make West Berkshire zero carbon by 2030.
The petition, which has already been signed by hundreds of people, points to the example of Bristol City Council, which declared a “climate emergency” in November when its members unanimously backed a commitment to be carbon neutral by 2030.
The 48-year-old said: “I invite the council to sign my petition in good faith
“They say aim for the stars and reach for the moon, so I would encourage all council members to take a look at the petition which is on the West Berkshire e-petition.
“In good faith, I request it is duly considered.”
Mrs Clifford emphasised that the council had a duty to act on guidance received by national government, but remained optimistic that the council would achieve net carbon status before 2050.
Addressing Mr Masters, she added: “This is where we are not alike.
“I admire your campaigning, but we have to act, we do.
“For now, we have a national target of 2050. For now, that’s what we must work towards.
“I don’t think now we feel able to sign up to a target of 2030 without being clear about how we’re going to get there and that’s the work we’ve got to do.
“We have to have a strong, concrete plan, but I admire your ambition.”
To view Mr Masters' e-petition, visit: http://decisionmaking.westberks.gov.uk/mgEPetitionDisplay.aspx?ID=95&RPID=9328503&HPID=9328503