'Our resolve will not weaken' - Northumberland councillors back county's climate plan

Northumberland’s climate action plan has received the backing of councillors, with a lead member vowing that ‘our resolve will not weaken’.

Friday, 10th January 2020, 11:45 am
Updated Monday, 13th January 2020, 11:49 pm
Picture c/o Pixabay

As previously reported, the decision, taken at a full council meeting, includes the approval of additional capital funding of £3.36million over the next three years, as well as annual revenue spending of £80,125 starting in April.

The additional investment will increase the overall spending on renewable energy projects to more than £10million – for ground source heat pumps, solar panels, including the proposed carport at County Hall, and the development of a hydro-electricity project at Hexham.

On a more day-to-day level, over the next five years, the council will be offering every household in Northumberland a free sapling tree to help offset carbon emissions.

A Climate Change Commission is also being established, with the local authority looking to team up with world-leading experts and industry leaders to make a real difference in collective responsibility.

The plan, which has five key themes – energy generation, energy consumption, emissions capture, policy and engagement, comes in the wake of the declaration of a climate emergency last summer, with pledges to reduce the authority’s emissions by half by 2025 and make the county carbon-neutral by 2030.

Coun Glen Sanderson, the cabinet member for the environment, told the meeting: “Our resolve will not weaken, because we all know that climate change is real, but it is not too late and we can make a difference.”

He added that the action plan will continue to be developed in coming months and become a delivery plan with specific dates, costs and details.

Opposition councillors raised some practical issues in relation to the likes of tree-planting, public transport and walking and cycling routes during the debate, but there was broad, cross-party support for the overall goals.

However, Labour group leader, Coun Susan Dungworth, did call for more money to be requested from central government, suggesting that otherwise a lot of the work by local authorities, including Northumberland, will be ‘tinkering around the edges’.

Summing up, council leader Peter Jackson highlighted the council’s ‘serious ambitions’ as well as the role Northumberland can play beyond its own borders.

“We see our county as a carbon sink,” he said. “It’s a huge environmental area and we all love it dearly, but in terms of climate change, it’s a resource that’s second to none in the whole country.”

He also highlighted the growing renewables industry, adding: “We are going to be leading the world in many respects.”

After the meeting, Coun Sanderson said: “Over the past six months, we have had many meetings with a wide range of residents, including school students, key partners and businesses, and through that dialogue and the hard work of our officers, we have reached this position on schedule.

“Now we are laying out real actions and real money to achieve our aims.”

Coun Jackson added: “Clean growth is about de-carbonising the county while improving the local economy.

“Our commitment to climate change action will be fully realised and it will require a change in our approach to everyday life in areas which have an impact on the climate.”

However, Coun Dungworth said: “As always with the Tories, this climate emergency action plan is more about sound-bites than substance.

“Tree-planting gimmicks make for good headlines, but the reality is that Tory cuts to local services will make management of over 150,000 new trees impossible.

“While we welcome any efforts to tackle the climate emergency, the Tories’ action plan is lacking the vital detail we need to meet this challenge head on.

“Labour is calling on the administration and central government to make solid financial commitments and start the new year with a renewed focus on productive cross-party working, putting the climate crisis before party politics.”