'Scientific and moral need' - Council declares climate emergency

Paul Kunes, cabinet member at West Norfolk Council.

The motion for a climate emergency was brought forward by cabinet member for the environment, Paul Kunes. - Credit: Ian Burt

A Norfolk council has become the latest authority in the country to declare a climate emergency - with its leader vowing that the measure will go beyond “virtue-signalling”.

The motion for a climate emergency was put forward at a Thursday meeting of Lynn and West Norfolk Council by Conservative cabinet member for the environment Paul Kunes.

Councillor Kunes 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.

King's Lynn Town Hall where a decision will be made on plans to build a house in-between two existin

The Borough Council of King's Lynn & West Norfolk voted overwhelmingly in favour of declaring a climate emergency. Some 230 councils across the UK have already done so. - Credit: Ian Burt

“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.

Stuart Dark, Conservative candidate for Dersingham. Pic: Norfolk Conservatives.

Council leader Stuart Dark said the council would go beyond "virtue-signalling" in addressing the climate crisis. - Credit: Norfolk Conservatives

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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.”

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

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

Environmental activists laid out hundreds of children’s shoes in Downham Market and King’s Lynn to p

Extinction Rebellion welcomed the news but said the council's own emissions as an organisation paled in comparison with others in the borough. - Credit: Extinction Rebellion

“The council’s own emissions are less than 1pc 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, but 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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