The country’s largest Conservative-led local authority has voted against pressing the government to reconsider delaying climate change actions, despite hearing concerns they would be disastrous for the area’s leading industry and condemn residents to suffering more severe impacts.
A North Yorkshire Council meeting heard while the authority had declared a climate emergency last year and had supported York and North Yorkshire Local Enterprise Partnership’s ambition to become the country’s first carbon negative region by 2040, Rishi Sunak’s move to put back actions on emissions flew in the face of local targets.
Introducing the motion, Liberal Democrat councillor Andrew Murday said he had been struck by the speed in which businesses in the area were “moving towards the green agenda”, “much faster than local or national government”.
He said the prime minister had recently outlined measures that amounted to a reversal of the drive towards net zero by pushing forward North Sea energy schemes, delaying the phasing out of gas boilers, withdrawing a move to force private landlords to provide insulation and putting backing the ban on sales of new petrol and diesel cars.
Coun Murday told the meeting politicians’ attitude towards tackling climate would have a “dramatic” impact on the attitude of residents and whether the authority achieved its net zero target.
Calling on the authority to write to the minister of State for Energy Security and Net Zero, he said the government’s rolling back of climate change moves would make North Yorkshire’s strategy “more difficult, if not impossible”, to achieve.
Other opposition councillors warned how climate change was nearing a tipping point beyond which York and North Yorkshire’s leading industry, the agriculture, forestry and fishing sector, that accounts for 17 per cent of all enterprises, would be hugely affected.
Councillor Steve Mason said: “You think you’ve got a farming community now. It ain’t gonna happen in those times. It will just be ten foot of snow.”
Green councillor Andy Brown underlined while the authority was behind some “excellent” carbon cutting initiatives, North Yorkshire was now seeing several flooding events a year in areas that used to become inundated once every two years.
He said: “It is clear that this is not a time to move slower.”
The Conservative-run authority’s executive member for climate change, Councillor Greg White, said he did not accept the motion’s central premise as the UK’s target of achieving net zero by 2050 remained in place and changes announced by the prime minister were “moderate and pragmatic”.
He said the changes over vehicle sales would have a “marginal” impact, while the measures were designed to help ease rather than impede the transition to a low carbon economy.
Ahead of Conservative councillors voting en masse against the motion, Coun White said: “I am personally committed to delivering this council’s targets to become net zero in its own emissions and to do its part in helping North Yorkshire as a whole to become carbon negative. This motion does not help.”