Devon County Council has declared a ‘climate emergency’ but rejected calls to set a target of becoming carbon neutral by 2030.
Extinction Rebellion campaigners packed out the public gallery at County Hall and protested outside the council offices yesterday (Thursday, February 21).
Shouts of ‘shame on you’ rang out from the gallery when the Conservative group voted against Councillor Jacqi Hodgson’s motion that would have set a carbon neutral by 2030 target.
Instead, the Conservative amendment to the motion was agreed - that the council does declare a climate emergency and that it adopts a key recommendation of the IPCC – for Devon to become carbon neutral by 2050 at the latest.
It was also agreed the Environmental Performance Board would review and recommend what further approaches could be taken.
Members of Extinction Rebellion spoke at the start of the meeting and urged councillors to back Cllr Hogdson’s motion.
Caspar Hughes said: “The question isn’t whether we will stop global warming but whether we will act quickly enough to save civilisation.
“The window we need to act in is closing before our eyes and our children say we are burning their future away. We cannot afford not to become climate neutral as soon as possible.”
Cllr Hodgson, the Green party councillor for Totnes and Dartington, said there is a lot of evidence that supports the 2030 date for being carbon neutral.
She said: “We need to recognise the issues with climate change and that we are heading towards extinction, and this is a call to action on the scale of a declaration of war. After 2030 it may be too late.”
Cllr Roger Croad, cabinet member for the environment, said the council had already reduced emissions by 36 per cent since 2012-13 and has a target of 50 per cent by 2030.
He said the council has converted 25,000 streetlights to LED lighting, is using electric vehicles, has funding to install solar panels at County Hall, wants to install a solar farm on redundant landfill sites, has removed 100,000 single use plastics items annually from food outlets and has invested £14m in renewable energy.
But he said: “I cannot pledge to make the county of Devon carbon neutral by 2030, or anytime. Devon is made up of a myriad of organisations of businesses and every sector of society and the economy will have to help achieve stretching carbon targets – no one organisation is responsible.”
Rosie Haworth-Booth spokesperson for the North Devon branch of Extinction Rebellion, said “Councillor Croad is right to draw attention to the work that DCC have already done, but that is the easy bit. Since they started installing solar panels and changing lighting and vehicle systems, conditions have changed, and will continue to change in a way we cannot predict. Councillor Hart seemed to be under the impression that the 2018 IPCC statement that “we have 12 years” was arbitrary. This is the last thing it was. Cllr Hodgson, her supporters and many many members of the public are aware that the IPCC reports are always extremely conservative and in reality 2050 as a point to reduce emissions to Zero is far too late.”