A target for South Ribble to become carbon neutral two decades before the rest of the country will apply to “the council and its operations” – but not necessarily the whole borough
Earlier this year, the authority set out its aim to produce net zero carbon by 2030. The UK-wide target date to achieve the same objective is 2050.
The recently-elected Labour administration put forward a motion which described the “immediate danger” posed by climate change – and laid out its ambition for the district to go carbon neutral in little more than 10 years.
But during a debate back in July, Conservative opposition members – while supporting the aspiration of an earlier target date – questioned whether it was realistic, because of the need for residents and businesses to change their behaviour before the law required them to do so.
As the authority gathered this week to debate its new corporate plan, Conservative councillor Alan Ogilvie noted that the wording of the pledge had changed.
“This document has now watered down [the commitment] to cover the ‘council and its operations’ rather than the borough. Is this a recognition of the difficulty of achieving [the initial proposition]?” Cllr Ogilvie asked.
But council leader Paul Foster said the ruling group’s commitment to the environment was undimmed.
“We have an aim to become carbon neutral – for this council, its operations and, if possible, the borough – by 2030. We debated it in detail and we stand by it,” Cllr Foster said.
Since taking control, the new administration has also committed to eradicating single-use plastics within the authority by 2025 and planting 110,000 trees – one for each resident of the borough.
The corporate plan plots the direction of the authority over the next four years. Its four themes span health, wellbeing and safety, investment and financial sustainability, people and communities, and places, homes and the environment.
Specific pledges include delivering the council’s existing “green links” programme to better connect the borough’s open spaces, implementing a new digital strategy to improve the way authority operates and interacts with residents and a commitment to apprenticeships.
Introducing the document, Cllr Foster said that it was based on everybody’s right to be “happy, healthy and safe”.
“Where we see poverty, we will tackle it; where we see poor health, we will offer opportunities for wellness; and when people want to learn and develop, we will do what we can to provide opportunities to grow,” he said.
The vision drew cross-party support – but the opposition did persuade the ruling group to re-write a line which referred to “bringing our wonderful parks back to life”.
“We have some of the best parks in the UK – and I [wonder] what message that sends out to the [staff] who work incredibly hard,” deputy Conservative opposition leader Caroline Moon said.
Cllr Foster agreed to change the wording to a commitment to “continuing to improve” the borough’s parks.
“Our parks are wonderful – but what we’re going to do is make them even better,” Cllr Foster said.