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Red Rebel Extinction Rebellion demonstration as Norfolk County Council sets carbon neutral target

PUBLISHED: 10:36 25 November 2019 | UPDATED: 15:06 25 November 2019

Extinction Rebellion in Red Rebel demonstration at Norfolk County Council. Picture Dan Grimmer.

Extinction Rebellion in Red Rebel demonstration at Norfolk County Council. Picture Dan Grimmer.

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Members of climate change campaign group Extinction Rebellion staged a colourful demonstration at Norfolk County Council as environmental targets came under the spotlight.

Extinction Rebellion in Red Rebel demonstration at Norfolk County Council. Picture Dan Grimmer.Extinction Rebellion in Red Rebel demonstration at Norfolk County Council. Picture Dan Grimmer.

The council met today to agree a new environmental policy - including a pledge for Norfolk to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2030.

And Extinction Rebellion campaigners donned red robes to process into County Hall as red rebels.

The council set up a cross party group in May 2019 to look at key issues and actions needed to help the county council understand and address its environmental impacts from the buildings the authority uses, the way people travel, and how the land owned by the council is used.

The working group heard from representatives of a range of organisations including Extinction Rebellion - which had occupied the council chamber in protest earlier this year, the Broads Authority, the UEA and the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership.

A set of proposals was produced, which was unanimously backed by the council today.

The council agreed the policy, with an initial £1m for capital projects and £350,000 for revenue schemes.

Tree-planting, rewilding and environmental projects are planned.

Andy Grant, Norfolk County Council cabinet member for environment and waste, said: "It's not often we make history in this chamber, but I hope we can today and for the right reasons.

"Creating this environmental policy is the first step of a long journey."

Opposition groups welcomed the policy, with Liberal Democrat Sarah Butikofer saying: "This issue is too big for any one political party to fight alone."

Labour's Jess Barnard welcomed the "beginning steps to tackle the climate crisis".

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But she said it needed to be more than "lip service" and added: "If you are to meet these targets, then the council must not go ahead with the Western Link."

However Conservative leader Andrew Proctor said, of the mooted Western Link: "You will appreciate it does not sit well with everybody, but it does sit well with the majority."

Extinction Rebellion campaigners gathered outside, with banners opposing the Norwich Northern Distributor Road Western Link, before their colourful procession.

But they were supportive of the council's moves to cut emissions, although they questioned how the Western Link fits into that.

Extinction Rebellion Norwich spokesperson Ames Wilson said: "Back in February it was hard to imagine Norfolk County Council ever aspiring to take a principled, bold lead on the climate emergency.

"No one seemed to be listening to us; they tried to drown out our protest songs by playing opera on their loudspeakers.

"Our councillors seemed to be sleepwalking into chaos, blocking their ears. But some of them, it seems, were listening. And a few of them wanted to hear more.

"And now, due to the work of this cross-party committee of officers and councillors who were prepared to consult with experts and with representatives of Extinction Rebellion, they are starting to show some of the leadership we so urgently need.

"We congratulate the council on this great example of how different political parties can work together in a time of crisis which will affect everyone worldwide."

Barry Stone, chair of the council's infrastructure and development select committee, said: "We are living with climate change and I'm keen to see the authority on the right track to reducing the environmental impact of the essential services we run.

"We need to focus on the things we have influence over to ensure improvements are within our gift.

"I believe the ambitious 2030 net zero carbon emission target is the right way to go and would set us on a course well ahead of the government's 2050 target."

The council also, after a protracted process of various amendments, backed a motion from independent councillor Sandra Squire over tree planting, agreeing to plant a million trees over the next five years.

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