How far can Lancashire go to cutting out carbon by 2030?
The authority unanimously backed a motion put forward by the sole Green Party member at County Hall to set out how it will 'transition' the local economy by 2030 – although the document will not be produced within the four-month timescale originally requested by County Cllr Gina Dowding.
At a meeting of the full council, she agreed to an amendment from the ruling Conservative group, which had warned that it would be “unrealistic” to deliver the decarbonisation and biodiversity strategy in such a tight timeframe during the pandemic.
Cllr Dowding said it was still vital that the work - which will include the setting of year-on-year minimum emissions reduction targets - was not put off.
“This isn’t just about reducing carbon by 2030,” she added.
“Starting now gives us the best hope of making a safer, clean transition; maximising the opportunities available, but also [enabling us] to deal with the really hard-to-reach sectors at the end [of the process].
“We need to be able to focus on [them] by having decarbonised the easier sectors at the beginning.”
Subject to emerging government guidance, the motion commits the county council to championing local production of renewable energy, investment in public transport and walking and cycling initiatives and encouraging local financial services to back Lancashire’s low-carbon businesses.
The authority will also press for the development of high-quality, low-carbon homes – based on modular designs – and commit funding for the retrofitting of existing housing stock with equipment to reduce energy waste and fuel poverty.
Cabinet member for the environment, Michael Green, said that the proposed work was “a priority” for him and the administration.
“We will need to be confident that we are deploying resources correctly and consistently with the new legal duty [in forthcoming government legislation],” he added.
Preston West county councillor John Potter, who seconded the motion, said that the county could not wait for a “convenient time” to tackle climate change – and that the proposals might have financial implications.
“Recycling rates in Preston are only 33 percent – we need the county council to be able to recycle food waste and fabrics so we can get these rates better,” he added.
“We’re going to have a new incinerator in North Preston [approved last year for the Redscar Industrial Estate] – and, at some point, this council is going to have to decide whether it wants to have a contract to burn rubbish going decades beyond 2030.
“That is why this strategy is so important - we need a long-term focus, so that quick decisions aren’t made that then [result in] years of consequences.”
A separate programme of work on carbon assessment and pathways to achieving net-zero carbon emissions is already set to be undertaken as part of the formation of the forthcoming Greater Lancashire Plan.
The UK has a national target to become a 'net-zero' emitter of carbon - compared to 1990 levels - by 2050. Earlier this month, the Prime Minister made a new pledge to cut carbon emissions by 68 percent of the 1990 total by 2030.