Harrogate council approves "most radical environmental manifesto ever" in bid to tackle climate change

Adopted: Harrogate Borough Council have adopted their own policy to tackle climate change. Picture: Lachlan Leeming
Adopted: Harrogate Borough Council have adopted their own policy to tackle climate change. Picture: Lachlan Leeming

Harrogate councillors have put aside party tensions to jointly adopt what was described as the "most radical environmental manifesto put forward by a borough council ever", in a bid to tackle climate change.

Among the actions to be considered will be free parking for electric vehicles, solar powered lighting in council facilities like car parks, more electric vehicle charging points and a ‘tree for every child’ school planting scheme.

The decision was made at April's full meeting of council, a month after the minority Liberal Democrat party tabled a motion to declare a climate emergency.

The same motion had been accepted by dozens of councils across the country over the last year.

However, the Conservatives put forward their own amendment, with council leader Richard Cooper stating: "We shouldn't actually be voting on whether there is a climate emergency or not...To have a vote is to say climate change is a matter of opinion - it is not, it is a fact".

Councillors at the meeting resolved to instead work together to put out a jointly-agreed set of actions to address climate change for the April meeting.

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In introducing the updated proposal this month, council leader Richard Cooper said: "I believe we are debating today the most comprehensive
carbon reduction plan ever considered by a borough council."

"It rewards people who do the right thing by recycling more and by investing in electric vehicles. It places children at the forefront of the strategy by looking at a massive programme of planting where every child plants a tree during their schooling," he added.

"I believe it is the most radical environmental manifesto put forward by a borough council ever and will place us at the forefront of the green
movement in the public sector."

However it wasn't without controversy, with Liberal Democrat leader Pat Marsh claiming that there was "no discussions or input from this side of the council", a claim rejected by Coun Cooper.

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She also claimed that the Conservative party had a “great reluctance to use the words 'declare a climate emergency'”, to which which cabinet member for planning Rebecca Burnett responded that it was "a stupid level of semantics that she's getting hung up on about".

Despite the brief verbal niggle, councillors voted in favour of adopting the policy.

The motion states the council will re-examine its carbon reduction strategy to match with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's (IPCC) position of a 45 per cent reduction in emissions by 2030.

Among the other points proposed are that the council will establish a "climate change coalition", bringing together residents groups, businesses, environmental groups and politicians to promote carbon neutrality in the district.

The authority will also consider lobbying the Government to bring in a new ‘green council support grant’, offering incentive to councils who reduce their carbon emissions over and above the IPCC 2030 targets.

Lachlan Leeming, Local Democracy Reporter