Councillors unanimously agree that Shropshire Council should put more effort into tackling its contribution to climate change

Shropshire Council held an unusually good-tempered meeting today in Shirehall. It was a lengthy session with more than four hours in the chamber (we had a break for mince pies and carols). As the meeting neared its end, councillors turned their attention to climate change. A cross-party motion proposed by Green Party councillor Julian Dean, and supported by me along with several other councillors, called for the council to increase its efforts to reduce its carbon footprint.

An amended version of the motion was passed unanimously. I am very pleased with this. It is important that all of us contribute to reducing carbon emissions for the sake of the generations that follow us.

Supporters of the climate change motion greet us at Shirehall

Shirehall is a 1960s building. It is poorly insulated and inefficiently heated. There could be nowhere better to talk about reducing the council’s carbon footprint. Shropshire Council is a major employer and has a significant carbon footprint. But it rarely thinks about its role in reducing carbon emissions.

We had been discussing a motion on instilling an environmental direction in the council for some time. Julian Dean came up with the final wording and we gave due notice to the council that we would present the motion.

An amendment was proposed by the Conservative group before the meeting. We had no objection to the changes and accepted them in the council chamber.

The final motion notes the government has yet to outline its plans for partnerships with local councils to achieve the goals in the 2017 Paris Agreement which aims to keep global temperatures to well below 2.0C above pre-industrial times. It asks the chief executive to write to the environmental secretary to ask when the plans will be announced. Peter Nutting, leader of the council, should assign a member of the cabinet to promote the climate change work being undertaken by the council. The council is asked to set up a task and finish group to review the council’s existing policies and actions. And to make recommendations for future policies and actions.

After a brief introduction by Julian Dean and a statement of support by Hannah Fraser, the amended motion was passed unanimously.

This is welcome news. It takes up back towards where we were in 2006, when the former Shropshire County Council signed the Nottingham Declaration, a memorandum between the government and local councils on tackling climate change. That declaration has been forgotten in Shirehall despite being proudly displayed at the reception desk.

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The Climate Change Motion

Original motion proposed by Julian Dean, supported by Harry Taylor, Nat Green and Andy Boddington. Seconded by Madge Shineton. Amendment proposed by Mark Jones and seconded by Dean Carroll. Amended motion passed unanimously.

Original Motion

The International Panel on Climate Change has recently made clear the scale of the emergency facing us all. It is clear that current action to reduce emissions is inadequate both globally and in the UK, and if unchecked will result in a catastrophic 3 degrees of global warming.

The UK Government is yet to put forward plans for partnerships with local councils to achieve the Paris climate goals, although emissions reduction efforts at the local level could help the UK government achieve and exceed its existing National Determined Contribution.

In the lieu of a central government lead this Council agrees to:

  • Require all report risk assessments to include Carbon Emission Appraisals, including presenting alternative approaches which reduce emissions wherever possible.
  • Establish a Task and Finish Group of members, to run for a full year, with the remit to recommend actions and challenging targets across the Council’s activities.
  • Task a director-level ‘Carbon Champion’ officer with responsibility for promoting the reduction, as rapidly as possible, of carbon emissions resulting from the Council’s activities.
  • Produce and publish our own Climate Action Plan in order to facilitate the most rapid emissions cuts possible.
  • Establish a local Climate Action Partnership to draw in support from business, the wider public sector, the voluntary sector and the wider community.

Amended Motion (amendments in italics)

The International Panel on Climate Change has recently made clear the scale of the emergency facing us all. It is clear that current action to reduce emissions is inadequate both globally and in the UK, and if unchecked will result in a catastrophic 3 degrees of global warming.

The Paris Agreement’s central aim is to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change by keeping a global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Additionally, the agreement aims to strengthen the ability of countries to deal with the impacts of climate change.

The UK Government is yet to put forward plans for partnerships with local councils to achieve the Paris climate goals, although emissions reduction efforts at the local level could help the UK government achieve and exceed its existing National Determined Contribution.

In the interim before Central Government comes forward with proposals for Local Government based on the Paris Agreement this Council resolves to:

  1. Ask the Leader and Chief Executive to write to the Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural affairs to ask when Central Government expects to issue its proposals
  2. Ask the Leader to reinforce the Council’s commitment to the environment, including climate change, by naming a member of the administration responsible for the Environment to promote the work being undertaken by the Council
  3. Request the Performance Management Scrutiny Committee establish a Task & Finish Group to do the following:
  4. Review Shropshire Council’s existing Environmental Policies and the effectiveness of actions already taken
  5. To come forward with further recommendations for Shropshire Council to consider in the future

We encourage the Task & Finish Group to consider the following as starting points in their considerations:

  • Requiring all report risk assessments to include Carbon Emission Appraisals, including presenting alternative approaches which reduce emissions wherever possible.
  • Clarify which Director level officer has responsibility for promoting the reduction, as rapidly as possible, of carbon emissions resulting from the Council’s activities
  • Review the need for a Shropshire Council Climate Action Plan and any related delivery bodies
  • Making Environmental Impact a consideration for inclusion within the Council’s procurement framework