To receive the Climate Emergency Action Plan.
RECOMMENDATION: That the Council approves the detailed Climate Emergency Action Plan, endorsing the targets for carbon dioxide reduction and the related actions proposed for Wokingham Borough Council to play as full a role as possible in achieving a net-zero carbon Borough by 2030.
The Council considered the Climate Emergency Action Plan, set out at Agenda pages 49 to 140.
It was proposed by Gregor Murray and seconded by Laura Blumenthal that the recommendation be agreed.
Gregor Murray stated that he had presented the initial Climate Emergency Action Plan to Council 6 months ago. The updated Plan had 37 core targets, 123 key actions and 385 milestones, along with a financial plan and carbon budget that would take the Borough from emitting 580,000 net carbon tonnes each year to emitting 72,000 net carbon tonnes per year. The Plan was a living document, some actions may be added, and others removed. Gregor Murray went on to emphasise that Wokingham Borough Council was one of the leading councils in the fight against climate change. He highlighted some of the proposed actions within the Plan including the doubling of greenways and public transport usage, and improving air quality and electric vehicle charging infrastructure. He thanked officers for their hard work in the production of the Plan.
Laura Blumenthal commented that the Plan had grown significantly. Wokingham was a leader in best practice in comparison to some larger city authorities. She highlighted the carbon budgeting, clear steps for green recovery and also the engagement work carried out. Laura Blumenthal thanked Officers for their hard work and all the organisations and residents who had had an input in the process.
It was proposed by Sarah Kerr and seconded by Clive Jones that the recommendation be amended as follows:
‘That the Council approves
detailed net-zero carbon neutral Borough by 2030, but notes that much more work needs to be done before it can
hope to achieve that aim.’
Sarah Kerr stated that she welcomed the progress made and that her amendment was not to lessen this achievement, however, it was to highlight that there was still much which needed to be achieved. She stated that there were some instances of double counting within the plan and some areas whose successful achievement were interdependent on the achievement of others. Sarah Kerr emphasised that changing residents’ behaviours was key to success and questioned how this could be best achieved. She requested that a costed business case be produced for the Green Bank project.
Clive Jones reemphasised that whilst the Plan contained a lot of detail, more work needed be undertaken. There were still 47 actions without a carbon budget against them. He highlighted the four proposed solar farm sites and indicated that it was not known where they would be sited, how much they would cost and the revenue they would generate. Clive Jones referred to the target around additional bottle banks and questioned where they would be located. He went on to state that the Liberal Democrats supported the plan to plant more than 250,000 new trees in the Borough and proposed the creation of a memorial wood for Covid 19 victims.
The amendment to the recommendation was accepted by the proposer of the original recommendation.
Alison Swaddle commented that the plan was a living document. She was part of the cross party Climate Emergency Task and Finish Group which had considered the Plan and had met with officers and the Executive Member. She was pleased that some of their comments and suggestions had been incorporated.
John Kaiser stated that solar farms were commercially viable.
Gary Cowan expressed concern about how the Climate Emergency Action Plan would fit in with current and future planning policy.
Carl Doran stated he found the Plan to be disappointing and that he felt there had been insufficient engagement with the residents, the Working Group and councillors. He referred to elements of double counting within the Plan and questioned why greenways had been included. Carl Doran went on to comment that new homes and the cars that they would likely bring into the area had not been sufficiently accounted for.
Jim Frewin thanked the Executive Member and the officers for their work. He commented that there was a need for the Council to look at its culture and how it did business. He went on to question how many trees and green land in the area had been lost over the last 10 years.
Paul Fishwick stated the Plan was one of the most important documents of the decade but was not currently robust enough.
Rachel Burgess expressed surprise at the positive comments and referred to the fact that 25% of the carbon reductions required had still not been accounted for. She stated that many of the figures within the Plan did not add up and that some elements were unrealistic.
At this point in the meeting, the item was put the vote. Andy Croy expressed concern that there remained Members who wished to speak on the item. He commented that there was no time limit for agenda items. It was explained that agenda items were treated in the same way as Motions and therefore had a 30 minute time limit for discussion.
Upon being put to the vote, it was:
RESOLVED: That the Council approves the Climate Emergency Action Plan, endorsing the targets where available for carbon dioxide reduction and the related actions proposed for Wokingham Borough Council to play as full a role as possible in achieving a carbon neutral Borough by 2030, but notes that much more work needs to be done before it can hope to achieve that aim.