Lib Dem leader quits Harrogate climate coalition as she slams group for 'achieving nothing'

The leader of Harrogate's Liberal Democrats has slammed the district's climate change coalition as being "plagued by inaction" as she announced her resignation from the group.

Wednesday, 24th February 2021, 2:18 pm
Councillor Pat Marsh, leader of the Liberal Democrats on Harrogate Borough Council.

Councillor Pat Marsh said she was stepping down from the coalition of residents, businesses, environmental groups and politicians because it had achieved "nothing" to tackle the climate crisis in the first 15 months since its launch.

Harrogate District Climate Change Coalition (HDCCC) was set up by the borough council in November 2019 when councillor Marsh made the first of her two failed attempts for the Conservative-run authority to declare a climate emergency.

She said creating a climate change coalition was never the Liberal Democrat's "preferred option" and that the party was "always concerned that it would be plagued by inaction".

"Our initial fears have been proven correct and it's clear that the only by engaging with residents across the district – bringing them into the process – do we have any hope of tackling this crisis," she said.

“Liberal Democrat campaigners and I will continue working with local residents for a greener district, fighting to declare a local climate emergency and for bold solutions.”

HDCCC has previously been criticised by some members who said it was in danger of becoming a "talking-shop" and that serious actions - not just words - were needed to meet the district's aim to achieve a net zero-carbon economy by 2038.

This also sparked the launch of the Harrogate District Climate Action Network (HD-CAN) last year with more than 4,000 members from 13 campaign groups uniting out of frustration to demand more decisive action and public engagement in response to the climate crisis.

The group previously said it was "very concerned" about the progress made and that "swift and radical" changes were needed, while council officials defended HDCCC saying it had made clear progress during its first year.

In a letter of resignation, councillor Marsh said she was stepping down from the group with "great regret".

She said: "I started this journey over two years ago when I took my first notice of motion to the council to ask the council to declare a climate emergency, since then another one has failed. In my naivety, I never thought that two years later there would have been nothing achieved.

"I wish the coalition all the very best and look forward to some positive actions in the coming months. The earth cannot wait for years, action is required now."

Kirsty Hallett, lead for communications and engagement for HDCCC, did not comment on councillor Marsh's resignation but did say the group's cancelled 2020 climate conference was being rearranged for later this year.

She said: "Until a way out of Covid-19 restrictions becomes clearer the final details cannot be confirmed, however it is likely to be a hybrid climate event, with some online and some face-to-face activities."

The coalition will welcome input from local businesses, who may be offered an opportunity to share their expertise and showcase their own climate activity at this 2021 HDCCC climate event."

By Jacob Webster, Local Democracy Reporter