East Sussex County Council climate action plan must be feasible in order to work

From: Cllr Paul Redstone, Conservative Party, East Sussex County Council

Friday, 6th August 2021, 6:00 am
A climate change protestor near Parliament (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)

Cllr Polly Gray criticises the County Council, of which I am a Conservative member, for voting against the motion to commit the council to be carbon neutral by 2030. At County we unanimously agreed a climate emergency motion in 2019 with a commitment to be carbon neutral before 2050. We have a quantified assessment of emissions plus a plan to reduce these by 13% a year and are delivering on this.

Like all my fellow councillors I am strongly in favour of climate action. I estimate that my own carbon footprint has more than halved over the last 5 years and continues to reduce. I donate a lot of time to developing a web site for a climate action charity (though I should disclose that it was founded by one of my children).

But sensible government requires that commitments are feasible. Those supporting the motion spoke passionately about the need for action and I respect that. But there was no detail about how this could be done. With current technology and budgets there appears to be no way in which this is remotely feasible. Our detailed plans to meet the ‘before 2050’ target show that we are achieving the planned 13% reduction a year but also show that even this target will become more challenging and need new technologies.

Councillor Gray is a member of the Climate Action Steering Group of Rother District Council which made a commitment to be carbon neutral by 2030. Despite this promise being made two years ago there is still no comprehensive audit of total RDC CO2e emissions. Their climate action plan has many aspects which I would support but nothing to show how net emissions can be reduced to zero in the next 8.5 years. It is notable that the environmental spokesman for RDC resigned recently accusing the council of ‘greenwash’ and that their policy was simply ‘to garner public favour’.

Councillor Gray says that it is unacceptable to just seek ‘pragmatic solutions’. I do not remember the word ‘pragmatic’ being used in the debate – but the word ‘feasible’ certainly was. If Councillor Gray thinks this is possible at District or County level she should state the quantified actions needed to achieve this. Responsible government requires delivery on commitments, not just gestures.

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