Lancashire could hold a ‘green summit’ next year to discuss the county’s response to climate change.
The idea is expected to be considered by the region’s 15 local authority leaders, who are currently overseeing the production of the Greater Lancashire Plan – a document which will focus on a range of issues affecting the future of the county.
Although the summit has yet to be confirmed, Lancashire County Council’s cabinet member for the environment, Michael Green, said he was “committed” to the gathering.
In a letter to the authority’s external scrutiny committee, he explained that the Lancashire Leaders’ Group is currently deciding whether to commission research into the impact of achieving a net zero carbon target in the county on two different timescales – by 2030 and 2050.
The government is committed to the latter date for the UK as a whole and Lancashire County Council earlier this year voted down a call by its sole Green Party member to hit the target 20 years earlier. However, the Extinction Rebellion movement has recently demanded a 2025 cut-off point, whilst South Ribble Borough Council in the region has also supported an earlier zero carbon target of 2030.
Appearing before the committee, County Coun Green said that evidence-gathering was a vital part of the process in deciding what course of action should be taken – and the speed at which it would be needed.
“It’s not a box-ticking exercise, it’s about making real change. I’m deeply sceptical about bringing the target forward – we’d totally change the way of life in this country.
“We’d bring to an end a lot of travel, a lot of businesses and people’s lifestyle choices. It would be radical – that’s why we need evidence about the interventions that are needed and the impact they will have on people’s quality of life,” County Coun Green added.
The meeting heard that the assessment report – if it is ultimately commissioned – would form the basis for any future summit, as well as a “climate change conversation” with residents and businesses in the county.
Any proposals to emerge from the discussions would be overseen by the leaders’ group, with progress reported to the cabinet of each of Lancashire’s councils. Decisions would also be needed about the resources required to fund any of the measures subsequently agreed.
Committee member and Preston Central West county councillor Carl Compton said that residents might need to be given incentives to make green changes for themselves – such as council tax reductions for the installation of renewable energy devices like solar panels and heat pumps. Meanwhile, Preston South West’s Gillian Oliver said that some potential solutions – such as car-sharing schemes – are “just good ideas” in themselves, whatever the scale of their environmental impact.
The meeting heard that Lancashire County Council conducted a green audit of its functions back in 1996 – and County Coun Green agreed that the document should be updated. The authority also set its own carbon reduction target in 2009 – to reduce emissions by a third by 2020 – and achieved it with four years to spare.
But committee member Tony Martin warned that future changes could have huge impacts on key sectors within Lancashire – including farming, should meat and diary production have to be significantly reduced.
Are we really going to say [that] to meet some green targets we’re going to destroy the agricultural heritage of Lancashire? I think not.
“We’ve got to think out of the box and possibly look at not necessarily changing the world tomorrow, but letting it evolve,” County Coun Martin said.