North Yorkshire climate change campaigners urge council to rethink strategy

County Hall, Northallerton. Photo: LDRS.

The climate change strategy of a council aiming to be part of the country’s first carbon negative area has been branded both “weak” and “an important step forward” by campaigners.

Environmental groups which form part of the North Yorkshire Climate Coalition issued statements over North Yorkshire Council’s the high level climate change policy until 2030 as leading members underlined the blueprint would only work with the support of residents, businesses and visitors.

The strategy, which was adopted at a meeting of the council’s executive. features a three-pronged approach in which it hoped cutting greenhouse gas emissions, preparing for climate change and supporting nature across England’s largest county will help focus people’s minds on environmental issues.

However, Tim Larner, vice chair of Zero Carbon Harrogate, urged the council to rethink dropping the net zero by 2030 target which the council had set out in February and replacing it with a more limited ambition to “seek to become operationally net zero by 2030”.

He said his group felt the strategy was “weak” and said the final version of the strategy had “stepped back from rather than stepping up to an ever-increasing challenge”.

Mr Larner told the County Hall meeting while the partnership approach was to be commended, the strategy needed to be more far-reaching.

He said: “Support and encouragement alone will not change the behaviour of suppliers. Suppliers should be required by goods and services specifications to deliver lower carbon solutions.”

Nevertheless, another member of the coalition of groups, Thirsk Friends of the Earth, said the adoption of the climate strategy was “an important step forward” and gave the council “a clear mandate to be radical, to lead, inspire and galvanise its partners and the people of North Yorkshire”.

However, a spokesman for the Thirsk-based group added there were areas where “a more ambitious and robust approach” was needed, such as using the council’s planning powers to ensure all developments are as close to net zero emissions as possible.

The authority’s climate change boss Councillor Greg White said more than 40 environmental groups had helped shape the strategy, alongside 17,000 responses to its consultation over the document.

He said: “Whilst this strategy might not go as far as Zero Carbon Harrogate would like, we feel it is fully reflective of the evidence, both from the available data and from our communities about what we need to do.”

The meeting heard Coun White describe the authority’s stance as “pro-active” and outline numerous initiatives in which the council would attempt to inspire or incentivise businesses to launch carbon cutting actions.

Coun White said the authority’s policy would work as quickly as possible to achieve the zero emissions target, before adding the authority had to “work within the world we live in and we do not control all levers”.