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South Staffordshire Council declares climate emergency

South Staffordshire Council has become the latest local authority to declare a climate emergency – but has not set a target date for becoming carbon neutral.

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South Staffordshire Council Hq. Photo by Staffordshire LDR Kerry Ashdown

More than 130 councils across the country have already declared a climate emergency and are now working towards reducing their carbon emissions.

Many have done so in the wake of a 2018 report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warning of the devastating consequences of a global temperature rise of more than 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

Cannock Chase Council is aiming to become carbon neutral by 2030, while Stafford Borough Council voted for a 2040 target.

But at South Staffordshire Council’s full meeting on Tuesday Green Party member Ian Sadler’s climate emergency motion, which included a call to “commit to the vision of carbon neutrality by 2030 at the latest”, was amended to remove the date.

The original motion put forward also called on the council to declare a climate emergency, explore the expansion of community energy to keep the benefits of local energy generation in the local economy, work with partners in the area to deliver carbon reductions and establish a citizens assembly to establish facts and make representations to the authority.

Councillor Sadler said: “Our economic system is enriching a minority while leading humanity towards climate catastrophe. Our political system is leaving many to feel powerless and excluded from the key decisions that affect them.

“In 2018, the world’s leading climate scientists – the IPCC – warned that humanity has only 12 years left in which to cap temperature rises at 1.5C or face a sharply higher risk of drought, floods and heatwaves. The UK Parliament has approved a motion to declare an environment and climate emergency, and all governments – national, regional and local – have a duty to limit the negative impacts of climate breakdown.

“Local governments should recognise that they cannot wait for national government to provide more money and support to reduce emissions, and commit to the ambition of carbon neutrality by 2030 at the latest. Our emissions are a small proportion of our area’s CO2 emissions and that we achieve more for our environment working co-operatively than we do alone.

“Every year, our area spends significant amounts on energy. This money goes out of the local economy to the big energy companies when we believe that it could be retained through community energy – and that community energy is a fundamentally important part of the national energy transition we are undergoing right now.”

But Conservative council leader Brian Edwards, who put forward the amended motion, said: “I accept there is a climate emergency. A lot of the proposed motion is agreeable in principle but some of your suggested steps are some which I would not wish to commit this council to agree at this stage without further work to establish cost effects to the council and services we provide.

“We also need to know what the government’s plans are in this respect. To agree to a timescale at this stage would be an unknown and onerous cost to the council.

“However, I see no problem in exploring how to achieve net zero carbon, cheap energy and future actions to be made by the council on climate change. I suggest one of the challenge panels be given the task of looking at the subject and reporting back to the council."