Motions on Notice - d)
Councillor Clark introduced his motion. He began by thanking the administration for the creation of a Cabinet position for Sustainability. The motion he proposed was possibly the most important motion ever put to the council.
The science was clear and unambiguous in relation to climate change; data and direct observation showed the climate was changing and action was required urgently to limit the rise. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report had highlighted the impacts of an increase in temperature in excess of 1.5 degrees. In 2015 the UK had signed the Paris Agreement with 178 other countries to limit the rise to 1.5 degrees, which was widely acknowledged as the tipping point which must not be exceeded. The results of global warming were clear including extreme weather patterns and rising sea levels. The detrimental impact of single use plastics was also clear. It was therefore right and proper that the council should debate the issue and declare a climate emergency.
The motion chimed with the recent government announcement that the UK would set a target to become a net zero carbon contributor by 2050. This would make the UK the first G7 country to do so; the Royal Borough was keen to ensure the UK led the way. To deliver the target would necessitate changes in the borough that would require additional resources and powers from the national government. Delivery of a net zero carbon target was not a political issue but a welfare one. The action plan would need cross-party support. The council had already achieved much including energy use reduction, investment in solar energy and a ban on single use plastics.
The proposed working group would need to look at current usage and identify appropriate targets and to lobby for further funding to accelerate targets. It would be important to lead by example and he therefore hoped all councillors would support the motion.
Councillor Dudley seconded the motion. He thanked all the residents who had lead the initiative to get the council to debate the issue. He had been asked by a resident during campaigning whether or not, if he were re-elected, he would vote to declare a climate emergency. He had stated that he would. It would be important to get cross-party agreement, it was too large an issue for political silos. To meet the targets would require changes in lifestyle; for example 15% of people in the UK took 70% of the international flights. He was grateful that the Prime Minister, who was the constituency MP, had brought forward the legislation in the last month of her prime ministership to set the zero emission target for the UK.
Councillor Davies commented that a number of councillors had signed the e-petition relating to declaring a climate emergency therefore she proposed an amendment to the motion to change the target of ‘2050’ to ‘2030’. She was delighted that the debate was taking place at her first full Council meeting. This was a unique opportunity to set the agenda for the next generation, not just the next four years. The IPCC had warned that there were just 11 years to avoid exceeding the increase of 1.5 degrees global warming. The greatest impact in the UK would be flooding, water scarcity and extreme weather events. The number of properties in the UK at significant risk of flooding was expected to double by 2030. So far 90 first and second tier councils had joined Parliament in declaring a climate emergency; 60 of these had set a target of 2030 or earlier. There was a need for the council to be more ambitious as it was the single greatest issue facing the country.
Councillor Del Campo seconded the amendment to the motion. Councillor Dudley stated that the administration would not accept the amendment as it would have a cataclysmic financial impact on the council and its residents. Councillor Clark stated that he did not accept the amendment, therefore Members debated the proposed amendment.
Councillor Bowden stated that he felt 2030 was an impossible deadline. Heathrow expansion was not expected to be complete until 2050. None of the machinery to be used would be electric-powered therefore there would be a wave of diesel coming towards the borough. He therefore objected to the change to 2030.
Councillor Hill commented that the administration was putting up a financial barrier which was simply not good enough. A climate emergency was going to cost in terms of lifestyle and money. The majority may not hit the target but everyone should try.
Councillor W. Da Costa asked if Councillor Dudley had undertaken a full assessment of the cataclysmic financial effect to which he had referred?
Councillor Jones highlighted that 60 councils had set a date of 2030. She could see that there might be a financial implication in the future but she still thought the council should set this date. There was no way that the council would allow itself to become financially unstable to meet the target but if it was not set, it would not make the steps needed.
Councillor Clark commented that the aspiration was to reduce usage as quickly as possible but the impact and delivery of a 2030 target was unknown. He had spoken to officers in detail to identify what could be done to achieve 2050; it would not be easy and would require cross-party policies. In his view the council should set an ambitious framework for 2050 and within the working group he would be delighted to listen to reasoned, costed proposals with accountability. Until he had seen this level of detail he could not go against officer advice and set a different target.
Councillor Baldwin commented that he was trying to imagine how different a plan would be if the date of 2050 was changed to 2030. Councillor Clark had stated that he would be prepared to listen to costed and reasonable measures based on the elasticity of what he said, to deliver by 2025. The wording was important because it went to the ambition the council had to reflect the views of its residents.
Councillor Davey commented that in business you had targets and stretch targets and sought to achieve them. Councillor Dudley had said a 2030 target would be cataclysmic; Councillor Davey felt it would be more cataclysmic if the issue was not addressed. He would like to see targets for different aspects with set dates, set in stone.
Councillor Del Campo commented that she welcomed the petition and highlighted that more people had signed a hard copy than the online version. She thanked residents for their passion and commitment. A good number of councillors would still be around in 2050 to see delivery; the children of the borough would be in their 30s and 40s; any children they had would inhabit a very different world. If the existential threat was an asteroid set to hit the world she asked would the council give it thirty years or start work the next day? She asked councillors not to kick the issue down the road; the deadline must be 2030.
Councillor Davies highlighted that 29 councillors had signed the petition with a date of 2030 therefore she wondered why they would have signed if they did not want to accept the amendment.
A named vote was undertaken on the proposed amendment as at least five councillors made such a request, as per Part 2 C17.3.3 of the constitution
18 Councillors voted for the motion: Councillors Baldwin, Baskerville, Bond, Brar, C. Da Costa, W. Da Costa, Davey, Davies, Del Campo, Hill, Jones, Knowles, Larcombe, Price, Reynolds, Taylor, Tisi, and Werner.
23 Councillors voted against the motion: Councillors Bateson, Bhangra Bowden, Cannon, Carroll, Clark, Coppinger, Dudley, Haseler, Hilton, Hunt, Johnson, Luxton, McWilliams, Muir, Rayner, Sharpe, Shelim, Singh, Stimson, Story, Targowski, Walters
The motion therefore fell and Members returned to debating the substantive amendment.
Councillor Stimson commented that she had previously set up a group called Maidenhead Matters. In her role as a councillor she was delighted to be involved in a number of issues such as planning, children and the waterways. She planned to work cross-party to improve the wellbeing of residents. She wanted to highlight a number of practical examples of how to reduce the council’s carbon footprint. In terms of planning policy and the Borough Local Plan, the council could ensure development was concentrated in demarcated areas, avoiding pressure on the Green Belt. The council could ensure all development was of high quality, durable, energy efficient, close to transport, amenities etc. It was also important to avoid low-lying areas to avoid flooding and introduce systems to preserve water. The Girls’ Policy Forum was focussing on the issue of a climate emergency. Volunteers were helping to clean out the Waterways to get the blue infrastructure in the town for all to enjoy. These might seem like small steps but the council was already doing lots to reduce its carbon footprint. With cross-party working and the involvement of residents the council would endeavour to bring to fruition its goals, but there was a need to be realistic.
Councillor Carroll stated that this was a critical issue. He thanked the lead petitioner who had spearheaded the campaign. He thanked all the children who had written to the council on the motion: 100 letters had been received and all had been read. It was wonderful to see so many young people engaged in democracy. The letters called on central government to provide additional resources and powers to meet the scale of ambition. There was a lot of wisdom in the letters, which called for the council to be confident in what it could achieve but have a clear plan in place. He asked Councillor Clark to report back in relation to the third element of the motion, particularly when he had been able to liaise with central government about the practicalities of setting a more ambitious target. This would then enable the council to take a more informed judgement about 2030 versus 2050.
Councillor Rayner highlighted that the new Braywick Leisure Centre would use 75% less energy because of solar power panels installed on the roof and the provision of electric charging points. The council had expanded the availability of green and open spaces through a number of land purchases. A group had recently been set up called ‘Friends of Battlemead Common. The council also worked with the group Friends of Thriftwood.
Councillor Bowden commented that he fully supported the motion. He highlighted the impact of Heathrow expansion in terms of construction which would use all-diesel vehicles and the 740,000 aircraft movements proposed. The council could not stop this but could consult with Heathrow to try to reduce the impact.
Councillor Werner commented that this was one of the most vital motions the council had ever considered. His 8 year old daughter was in attendance for the first time because she thought the issue was so important. The motion should give a message of hope to the next generation. The issue should be taken into account in every single council decision, for example ensuring the environment was put first and foremost in the Borough Local Plan. The council also had huge lobbying power to ensure the government took the issue seriously. He hoped they would back the target of 2030 rather than 2050.
Councillor Hill explained that the lead petitioner had also written a letter to the Maidenhead Advertiser about air pollution from vehicles, particularly toxic fumes from idle vehicles, which was a silent killer. One of the best defences were mature trees as they took up the carbon dioxide. There were traffic jams on the A4, in the town centre and on Braywick Road yet the council had plans to turn the area into a metropolis. There was not enough focus on transport solutions and green open spaces. A conscious decision could be made to protect all mature trees on the golf course site. To do anything else was environmental destruction.
Councillor W. Da Costa asked what was the ultimate aim of the motion? To stop the reduction of biodiversity and mass extinction. The EU’s website on Nature and Biodiversity and Biodiversity Strategy said, “species are affected by pollution, climate change and human activities.” Tackling the council’s carbon footprint and energy use addressed only one of the factors threatening species. The motion was excellent but incomplete. It was not enough to just focus on the current carbon footprint and energy usage. The council must be more aggressive in facing the devastating impact of humans on nature, and therefore the livelihood and wellbeing of future generations. The council also needed to look locally and start to take informed action to protect local species and biodiversity, to address habitat protection, air, water and ground pollution, and chemical and pesticide use to protect the ecosystem and biological diversity locally.
In 2011, the EU adopted an ambitious strategy setting out six targets and 20 actions to halt the loss of biodiversity and ecosystems by 2020. Councillor W. Da Costa explained that he had planned to propose that the motion be amended to include a clause to ‘Create a Biodiversity Strategy by 2021, with targets and deadlines set by a Task Force (including local community experts), and promote initiatives, to inter alia; protect species and habitats; maintain and restore ecosystems; achieve more sustainable agriculture and forestry; tackle invasive alien species; and help stop the loss of global biodiversity.’ However he had spoken to Councillor Clark before the meeting and he agreed to meet with Councillor W. Da Costa over the next two weeks to present a biodiversity motion to a future Council.
Councillor Baldwin commented that hope was the precursor of ambition. He had heard from Councillor Carroll that it was not possible to set a date, yet essentially that was what the council was doing. He felt the wrong date was being set. In defence of 2050 all that was offered was unsubstantiated claim of economic doom against the reality of environmental disaster. He could not support the motion on this basis.
Councillor Sharpe commented that he had been astounded by the debate and the lack of ideas from people around the table. The debate needed to move on to proper considered suggestions as to how the council could address the situation; whether by 2030 or 2050 was immaterial. As the council could be influential in encouraging people to act, the motion was a step forward as it was a platform to do so. The council could say that every building in the borough needed to have solar panels, a wind turbine and a water container but this would be a huge cost to both the borough and its residents. Doing it immediately would create huge disruption.
Councillor Dudley commented that the administration had a manifesto commitment to plant 2000 trees across the next four years and all new developments would require a planting scheme. He was looking forward to the debate on Heathrow given 18 councillors had voted for a date of 2030.
Councillor Hilton stated that he had signed the petition in recognition of the aspiration, not the intention, of a 2030 date. Declaring a climate emergency would be an important step. He welcomed the government commitment and was pleased that the motion called on central government to give additional resources and powers. The cross-party working group would be key to successful delivery. As Lead Member for Finance he would write to the Chancellor of the Exchequer to ask him to explain the costs and consequences of a 2030 target.
Councillor Jones stated that she supported the idea of a cross-party working group where ideas could be fed in and reviewed with officers who had the knowledge. She supported the motion but wished there had been a bit more ambition as she knew officers would not put the council at risk to meet an earlier target. She requested more detail on how the council had already achieved a 21% reduction in energy use.
Councillor McWilliams had been asked before the meeting whether he would support the amended motion. He had responded that it would depend on how it was explained that delivery could be achieved on a 2030 target; he did not believe this had been clearly set out. However there was no reason why the council would not be able to find solutions to deliver a 2030 target by writing to the relevant ministers. In the meantime the council should by whatever means, including via the local MPs, encourage the big polluters of the world to reduce their energy usage. At the local level the council should use the cross-party working group to undertake a detailed analysis of what policies it could deliver.
Councillor Johnson commented that politics was the ability to generate positive outcomes for the benefit of residents. As the Lead Member for Transport, which covered a significant part of the council’s carbon emissions, it would be one of his top priorities to deliver a sustainable transport policy. The key was connectivity and the use of technology. Unfortunately this was not moving as fast as it should to meet the ambition. Technology could be used to deliver a de-carbonised economy, transport network and infrastructure across the borough. Digital connectivity was also important to reduce the number of people who needed to commute every day. It would be important to ensure changes made were realistic and did not impact on the most vulnerable and he had been depressed with the blasé attitude of some in the meeting that there would not be any impacts on the vulnerable if the council pushed hard.
Councillor Jones raised a point of order as she felt it was misleading to suggest the opposition had been blasé about spending.
Councillor Johnson responded that he felt certain members of the opposition were being blasé about how the impact could be mitigated. Technology was the long-term key to the successful delivery of reducing carbon emissions. This needed investment by the private sector as well. The Berkshire LEP would play an integral role in delivering the agenda.
Councillor Davey referred to the manifesto commitment to plant 2000 trees and highlighted that an oak tree was still a teenager at 150 years old. He felt the tree planting comment was just a soundbite. Electric buses were being produced so if this could be extended to diggers and other machinery it would help the Heathrow situation. He emphasised that the date of 2030 was included in the petition and a number of councillors in the room had signed the petition.
Councillor Clark confirmed that between 2013/14 and 2017/18 the council had achieved a 21% reduction in energy usage and a 37% reduction in water usage. These statistics had been presented in detail to the former Sustainability Panel in May 2018. The reductions had been achieved as a result of changes such as the introduction of solar panels and energy efficient street lights. He highlighted that 47% of pollution was from vehicles. The government was phasing out diesel engines by 2040 yet some were calling for a 2030 target. The motion was pragmatic and ambitious.
It was proposed by Councillor Clark, seconded by Councillor Dudley, and:
RESOLVED: That this Council:
i) Declares an environmental and climate emergency; whilst noting the council’s achievements in reducing its environmental impacts including reducing its energy consumption by 21% and the ambitious ongoing targets to further reduce energy consumption by 10% within four years, adopted in the Energy and Water Strategy 2019-2023;
ii) Welcomes the Government’s commitment to net zero carbon emissions by 2050 and calls on them to provide additional powers and resources to ensure the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead can help deliver on national targets; and
iii) Will establish a Cross-Party Working Group to undertake an in-depth review of the council’s current carbon footprint and to formulate, consult and agree on a net Zero Carbon Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead by 2050 Strategy in consultation with local stakeholdersand partners with a draft strategy to be brought before Full Council within 12 months.
(A named vote was taken as at least five councillors made such a request, as per Part 2 C17.3.3 of the constitution. 40 Councillors voted for the motion: Councillors Baskerville, Bateson, Bhangra, Bond, Bowden, Brar, Cannon, Carroll, Clark, Coppinger, C. Da Costa, W. Da Costa, Davey, Davies, Del Campo, Dudley, Haseler, Hill, Hilton, Hunt, Johnson, Jones, Knowles, Larcombe, Luxton, McWilliams, Muir, Price, Rayner, Reynolds, Sharpe, Shelim, Singh, Stimson, Story, Targowski, Taylor, Tisi, Walters and Werner voted for the motion. Councillor Baldwin was not present in the room when the vote was taken).