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'We won't just talk and virtue-signal', says West Norfolk Council leader as climate emergency motion passed

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West Norfolk councillors have backed plans to formally declare a climate emergency – after the authority's leader vowed that the measure will go beyond “virtue-signalling”.

The motion was tabled at the borough council's meeting yesterday by environment portfolio holder, Paul Kunes.

He said: “This council has recognised the scientific and moral need to act decisively on climate change for sometime and has introduced a portfolio, policy and measures to significantly reduce its impact on its carbon emissions and the environment, with an intent to support these going forward with a specific budget.

West Norfolk Council's Kings Court headquarters
West Norfolk Council's Kings Court headquarters

“It is now the right time, with this council-focused activity well under way, for us to now declare a ‘climate emergency’ to magnify the global message of the need for action to local residents, businesses and partners in West Norfolk and signal our strong commitment to help them make positive changes.”

He said the council was on track to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2035 or sooner.

Council leader Stuart Dark said the authority would seek permission to invest “one million pounds over the next four years into Paul and his portfolio, in order that we can deliver on climate change, not just talk and virtue-signal about it.”

New West Norfolk Council leader Stuart Dark at his desk (50771225)
New West Norfolk Council leader Stuart Dark at his desk (50771225)

The council voted almost unanimously in favour of the declaration, with independent councillor Bob Lawton abstaining.

In a statement, campaign group Extinction Rebellion King’s Lynn & West Norfolk said the declaration was “welcome news”.

But it added: “While the council is busy reducing its own footprint, it must also try to take leadership and look at what the rest of West Norfolk is doing too.

“The council’s own emissions are less than one per cent of greenhouse gases emitted across the district, but it can also help reduce emissions from private businesses, households and transport if it uses its powers and influence, and it’s vitally important that it starts doing so.”

Mr Kunes said in the meeting the council realised it had to bring residents and businesses “on board”, and had plans to do so.

However, he maintained they could not force major polluting industries to reduce emissions, only explain what they as a council have done and “help them along the road for how to do it.”

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