West Norfolk set to declare a 'climate emergency'
West Norfolk Council looks set to declare a climate emergency in response to climate change.
A Notice of Motion supported by the leader of the council has been submitted ahead of the full council meeting on Thursday, September 9, asking the council to declare the emergency, in order to underline its commitment to supporting the necessary environmental changes.
The wording of the motion issued today says: "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.
"It is now the right time with this council-focussed 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.'
The Notice of Motion is being put forward by Paul Kunes, cabinet member for environment, seconded by council leader Stuart Dark.
Mr Kunes said: "We have been putting in a lot of work to improve our understanding of national best practice, requirements and guidelines.
"We have been gathering the data to understand the baseline figures for our own carbon footprint and reviewing those for the borough.
"We have put together a strategy and action plan which is being reviewed at environment and community panel today, before it goes to cabinet and council next month.
"Now we have a clear picture of what our situation is, both at the council and across the borough, we feel the time is right to declare a climate emergency.
"We are in a position to show what we have already done, set out what we are doing and planning to do and demonstrate how we plan to enable and support businesses and residents to do their bit too.
"The council's own carbon footprint is just a small percentage of the borough's footprint, so by all working together we can achieve a much bigger impact."
"We have already been working diligently behind the scenes to secure £3.8 million of Government grants for our Refit decarbonisation programme, installing solar panels and different heating systems in many of our buildings and venues to reduce our own carbon footprint.
"We have made the conscious decision to invest an extra £1.7m to make the new parkway development one of the greenest in Norfolk by including additional environmentally friendly and sustainable measures.
"Our waste collection vehicles are 20 per cent more fuel efficient than they were under the previous contract, and we will soon be receiving electric supervisor vehicles.
"We will be increasing our tree planting and encouraging others to do the same.
"As part of the Town Deal we are also looking at our cycling and walking infrastructure to encourage active and green travel. We are developing our website to include useful information Mr Dark, leader of the council, said: "We have restructured ourselves around our core priorities, of which the Environment is one.
"The Environment portfolio now has one person responsible for all environmental issues including air quality, waste disposal and other elements which support our decarbonisation journey.
"It is my intention to also put aside a budget specifically for climate change activities and to support businesses and the public to make changes.
"We have already been encouraging residents to play their part by recycling better. Leaflets were sent to every household earlier this year. We are also launching a campaign to encourage people to reduce their food waste and to dispose of their food waste using the kerbside caddies so that methane is capture and used for energy rather than released into the atmosphere.
"We are also planning to work with the many great businesses of west Norfolk which are looking to come out of Covid in greener, more sustainable ways. We will support them and help them navigate their way through the myriad sources of information and provide guidance on available funding.
"We will be working with the Norfolk Chambers of Commerce, New Anglia LEP and other partners, to involve and engage our communities and businesses in our plans as we all work together for a greener future."
Chris Sargisson, chief executive, Norfolk Chambers of Commerce, said: “Businesses have dramatically and rapidly been forced to transition into new ways of behaving as a result of Covid.
"The resulting global economic shutdown, which has been achieved at a devastating social cost, has barely dented our carbon emissions when you consider that emissions have to fall by at least 7.6 per cent every year to 2050.
"It shows that the challenge of avoiding dangerous climate change and getting to zero emissions is unbelievably hard. Norfolk Chambers is therefore delighted to work with partners to support the local business communities to understand what changes they can make; to signpost them to funding and support to implement immediate and trusted changes; and to engage the wider business community to highlight best practice and thought-leadership.
"We stand ready to support the borough council and others on our shared journey to net zero.”
Chris Starkie, chief executive, New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership, said: “We are delighted to be working with the borough council on helping West Norfolk businesses make the transition to net zero.
"The LEP’s Clean Growth Taskforce is prioritizing support for SMEs to provide funding and practical advice is available through the New Anglia Growth Hub to help businesses navigate the complexities of reducing carbon emissions and helping them mitigate their impact on the climate.”