Leaders of a council seeking to become part of the country’s first carbon negative region have admitted many of the climate change goals will only be achieved if the government funds them.

Approving a public consultation over its long-awaited carbon-cutting masterplan, several executive members of North Yorkshire County Council emphasised the authority would steer clear of over-promising what it could achieve given funding and powers at its disposal.

Councillor Greg White, the authority’s climate change executive member, said six months after declaring a climate emergency the authority had formed a plan about how it would get its own emissions to net zero.

Read more: Local authorities aim to become first 'carbon negative' region in UK

He said in addition, the North Yorkshire and York Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) had developed its own plan or roadmap for the area, featuring what he described as the “extremely ambitious” target of net zero carbon emissions by 2034 and becoming carbon negative by 2040.

He told executive members they were being asked to endorse, rather than adopt the LEP’s plan, whilst “recognising many of the actions and ambitions are actually the responsibilities of others and not in control of this council” and approve a draft carbon cutting plan for the new unitary authority.

When questioned by Liberal Democrat councillor Steve Mason over whether the authority would pursue area-wide ambitions, Coun White replied the authority would be reliant on residents, traders and the government for the latter.

The Northern Echo: Councillor Greg WhiteCouncillor Greg White (Image: NYCC)

He said the authority was set to endorse the LEP’s roadmap, but would stop short of adopting it as it could not fulfil many of the targets.

Coun White said: “What we are today doing is widening what we do as a council beyond a focus on what we actually do ourselves, in terms of our vans and our buildings, to how we can help across the whole of the council and help with things like homelessness.

“However, we have to be constantly aware we can only do what we can do within the funding that we have available and the powers we have available to us. We want to take a leadership role and that is the most you can hope for.”

Coun Mason said the carbon-cutting plans had already taken several years to be drawn up. He added: “We are now three years down the line and are still talking about endorsing the plan. To be honest, we need to be taking action.”

Read more: Council that declared a climate emergency delays environmental measures

Executive member for transport Councillor Keane Duncan appeared to question whether some ambitions in the LEP’s plan, such as reducing private car useage by 48 per cent and a 900 per cent increase in cycling miles by 2030, were realistic.

He said: “It’s very easy for us to agree to a pledge that sounds nice on paper, but when you look at the deliverability of what’s going to be involved in making that happen in reality it becomes much more difficult.”

Coun Duncan added the public would thank the authority for setting realistic goals.
In order to get the reductions in levels of car use, said Coun White, there would need to be a huge injection of funds from central government.

He concluded: “All we can do is help people move in the right direction.”


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Councillor Gareth Dadd revealed following the launch of the unitary authority “an accelerated programme of property rationalisation” would be brought forward to tackle climate change.

He said: “Everybody agrees with climate change until it affects them. It’s like housebuilding. Everybody agrees we need more homes until they’re next door to them.”