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Conservatives reject climate motion

Tory county councillors have rejected the idea of bringing forward climate change targets following a divisive debate at County Hall last week.

County Hall in Warwickshire (51998806)
County Hall in Warwickshire (51998806)

A joint Green and Liberal Democrat motion called on the authority to change its current target for becoming a climate neutral council from 2030 to 2025 and to commission a fully costed plan looking into how it could be done.

It also called for all new county council buildings to be carbon neutral, for two thirds of transport investment to go on walking, cycling and rail, rather than roads by 2025, and for the authority to reduce its pension investments in companies involved in fossil fuels.

Green Party councillor Will Roberts described the council’s current climate targets as ‘moderate at best’ stressing that the climate emergency was not something to consider in the future, it is happening right now.

Liberal Democrat leader Jerry Roodhouse, said: “Climate change is an issue, we all know that there is something not right happening, what our motion does is fosters that debate, it gets us thinking more seriously and deeply about it.”

Labour leader John Holland also expressed his support for the motion saying: “We have to lead by example, we have no credibility otherwise.”

However a number of conservative councillors were quick to attack the motion, describing it as premature and uncosted, while drawing attention to climate action already being taken by the council.

Some Conservatives questioned why Warwickshire should look to act faster when other countries were failing to reduce their carbon emissions.

Councillor Clare Golby said: “I find it really difficult to listen to these alarmist messages, there is nothing in this motion that sets out what the net effect will be of us taking this action.”

She said during her campaigning that climate change has never been an issue high on residents’ agenda, adding “We need to dial down the alarmist chatter, that we’re all going to fall into the sea.”

Cllr Jack Kennaugh, pointed to carbon emissions from places such as China as being the real issue saying: “A motion at Warwickshire County Council cannot save the planet, Warwickshire is not the problem, it is clean and green.”

Council leader Izzi Seccombe admitted there were different views on the climate debate and that the council’s actions in this area would be too fast for some and too slow for others.

Addressing the Liberal Democrat and Green groups, she said: “You need to take people with you, if you drive a coach and horses through you will leave people behind, you need to do things in a measured way, not pushing uncosted pressures on the people of Warwickshire.”

Deputy leader Peter Butlin, who in the past has provoked criticism from environmental groups in the past for material he re-tweeted questioning the effectiveness of renewable energy and expressing scepticism of carbon reduction targets, said he could not support anything that could make poorer residents less well off.

Responding to some of the criticisms from Conservative member Cllr Roberts said: “We’ve heard this argument today that climate change is not our fault, it’s the rest of the world, but we here in Warwickshire have our part of the puzzle.”

He added that the motion urged the council to consider developing a costed plan- it did not amount to a commitment from the council to take costly action.

In the end the vote went along party lines and the motion was rejected.

Giving his reaction to the motion being rejected, Cllr Roberts, said: “I found the ruling Conservatives’ complacency and defeatism staggering. One Conservative said ‘what more can we do? Warwickshire is already green and clean.’ The Conservative portfolio holder said that ‘this motion is premature’. And the Conservative’s Finance cabinet member (equivalent of the Chancellor of the Exchequer) stood up and said that the evidence for climate change is ‘not really there.”

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