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Council fails to declare climate emergency after 'political football' claims

PUBLISHED: 08:38 08 November 2019 | UPDATED: 10:29 08 November 2019

Thorpe Lodge / Broadland District Council.
<2 of 2> edp 29/6/00

Thorpe Lodge / Broadland District Council. <2 of 2> edp 29/6/00

A Norfolk council has refused to declare a climate emergency after councillors were accused of using environmental issues as "a political football".

A motion to declare a state of climate emergency was brought to a meeting of Broadland Council on Thursday, November 7.

But the proposal failed to pass after a heated debate which saw councillors disagree over plans to slash emissions and aim to get the council to carbon zero by 2044.

Dr Karen Lawrence, Liberal Democrat councillor, proposed the motion, and told council: "The time is right for Broadland District Council to declare a climate emergency and take a leadership position for the district. Annual net emissions must be reduced by 20pc per year."

The motion included proposals to make the environmental excellence panel a full committee and to seek to divest the Norfolk Pension Fund from fossil fuels.

But Judy Leggett, Conservative councillor, and cabinet member for environmental excellence, said: "I think we need actions not declaring emergency."

And Mrs Leggett, who spoke in favour of the adoption of a joint environmental action plan with South Norfolk Council earlier in the meeting, added: "Broadland Council is showing leadership through our action plan. We work to meet environmental targets and we welcome the opportunity to push the environmental agenda."

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The action plan - which stopped short of declaring a climate emergency - met with approval.

But Dr Lawrence said: ""Even Breckland has declared an emergency so we're not showing much leadership at all."

And David Harrison, Liberal Democrat councillor, said he was "staggered and appalled that environmental issues should be positioned as a political football".

While Conservative councillor John Fisher said: "A number of the fuel companies are among some of the biggest investors in alternatives to fossil fuels.

"If we start instructing pension funds on where to spend their money, there is danger that money being put in to deal with the climate issue will be withdrawn."

Liberal Democrat leader Steve Riley asked: "What is the problem with declaring an emergency?

"There seems to be a real ideological problem around it.

"We are in a climate emergency, there will be real suffering, and I implore this council to agree to that."

The motion failed to pass.

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