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Cabinet refuses to declare climate change emergency

PUBLISHED: 17:33 04 February 2020 | UPDATED: 08:24 05 February 2020

Scenes from a climate protest outside a council meeting last summer  Picture: Chris Bishop

Scenes from a climate protest outside a council meeting last summer Picture: Chris Bishop

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Councillors have again rejected calls to declare a climate change emergency and commit to becoming carbon neutral by 2030.

A motion by Green councillor Michael De Whalley called for the council to declare the emergency or make its reason for refusing clear, declare a date by which it would be carbon neutral and set up various panels and groups to oversee the changes.

But a report to councillors said a climate change policy was already being drawn up by the council, which should be completed by late April, while the council was also now a member of a Norfolk districts climate change group.

It adds the motion would require additional resources and finance which had not been budgeted for, while the council had no legal responsibility to declare an emergency.

Ian Devereux, the council's portfolio holder for the environment, said it was already working towards a long-term strategy on climate change.

He aid it had made "significant progress" this year, setting up an officers' working group.

He said there were areas where the council was in alignment with the motion but it also had some difference.

Addressing the cabinet, Mr De Whalley said tonight's decision was "on your heads".

Council leader Brian Long said it would prepare a climate change policy, strategy and action plan.

Cabinet members voted unanimously to reject the motion, which was referred to its ruling cabinet to commission a report, after it was proposed by Mr De Whalley in October.

It came after demonstrations outside council meetings by activists, who say low-lying parts of the West Norfolk Fens are particularly vulnerable to rising sea levels.

The vote came hours after it was announced that a ban on selling new petrol, diesel or hybrid cars in the UK would be brought forward from 2040 to 2035 by the government.

"We know as a country, as a society, as a planet, as a species, we must now act," Prime Minister Boris Johnson said.

"We must reverse the appalling loss of habitats and species, it's only by repairing the damage to the natural world and restoring the balance between humanity and nature, that is now so grotesquely out of kilter, we can address the problem of climate change."

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