COUNCILLORS have been applauded after agreeing to declare a climate change emergency and moving to reduce the use of plastics.

Dozens of residents had turned out to a full meeting of Richmondshire District Council as new councillors Leslie Rowe and Kevin Foster presented notices of motion for the council to up its environmental efforts, which were unanimously approved.

Independent member Cllr Rowe, who represents Catterick and Brompton-on-Swale, called on the council to examine its plastic use with a view to eliminating or reducing unnecessary use, particularly of single-use plastic.

Councillor Rowe said his proposal presented the council with an opportunity to make cost savings as well as to help save the planet.

He said: “Currently 300 million tonnes of plastic are produced every year, eight million tonnes of which end up in the sea. More than 80 per cent of marine litter is plastics. Giant rafts of this plastic floating in the ocean can be seen from space.”

The council’s former deputy leader Councillor Ian Threlfall said the authority’s staff had embraced moves to cut the use of plastic, but the proposal was “what we need to do as a generation”,

Councillor Stuart Parsons added the authority needed to examine how the district’s single use plastic was dealt with, saying if it was being disposed of in the Far East that would be unacceptable.

Colburn councillor Foster then introduced a proposal calling on the authority to declare and act upon an environment and climate emergency. The Green Party member urged the council to set a target of making its own activities net-zero carbon by 2030 and achieving 100 per cent clean energy across the council’s full range of functions by 2030.

He also called on the council to support and work with all other relevant agencies to ensure that the whole of Richmondshire achieves net-zero carbon within the same timescale. Cllr Foster said: “It may seem frightening but the scientific evidence is if we don’t take dramatic action within the next decade we could face irreversible damage to the natural world and collapse of our societies. We are running out of time, but there is still hope.”

He said it was important that the council showed “leadership to the residents of Richmondshire”.

The authority’s deputy leader Councillor Helen Grant said she was delighted to support Cllr Foster’s motion in its entirety, and that “2030 is as good a date as any to aspire to”.

She added: “We may not get there, but you have got to have some sort of aspiration. The Government says 2050 I believe. When Richmondshire actually audits our carbon footprint might be quite shocked, because over the years we have been quite active. But that’s not to say we can’t take this opportunity to educate ourselves and our residents.”