The Leader welcomed to the meeting approximately 30 members of the public and/or members of various interest groups. She emphasised that Cabinet had requested that the report on the declaration of climate emergency be brought forward as soon as possible and this special meeting of Cabinet had therefore be called. The Leader said it was her view that it was important that the Council took a lead on carbon reduction for the district and worked with others to generate new ideas and initiatives.
As Portfolio Holder and author of the report at Appendix to CAB3171, Councillor Murphy introduced the item and emphasised that it was essential that the Council put environmental considerations at the centre of all its work and services.
Five members of the public/representatives of interest groups spoke during public participation as summarised below.
Jock Macdonald (Chair of WinACC) congratulated the Council on taking a lead in declaring a climate emergency and emphasised that the issue was too important to become a matter for political disagreement. WInACC was a non-political group which campaigned based on scientific findings. It was important to encourage businesses and others to take the necessary steps to cut carbon emissions and/or create their own energy. WinACC looked forward to working in partnership with the Council on this issue.
Jan Warwick (Hampshire County Councillor) emphasised the importance of the issue and highlighted that the proposals must be properly assessed. Most carbon emissions were outside the direct control of the Council and it was essential that regard was also had to protecting the local economy in agreeing any policy changes (for example, by working with Winchester BID). With regard to specific proposals, she suggested that the Council should focus on maintaining forests and woodlands (including those neighbouring the district which were currently subject to development proposal through the Eastleigh Local Plan) and seek to capture carbon emissions from the former landfill site at Funtley.
Katherine Howlett Davies (Extinction Rebellion) welcomed the report as an important first step and emphasised that it was essential that an action plan be agreed following a comprehensive analysis of carbon emissions across the district. She highlighted that there were a number of measures that could be achieved relatively quickly and at a low cost. She suggested that the Council work with partnership organisations, such as WinACC and Extinction Rebellion. In addition, she suggested a Citizens’ Assembly should be established.
Ian Tait also welcomed the report and emphasised that it would require political leadership to ensure proposals were turned into actions. For example, a decision could be taken to stop installing gas boilers in the Council’s housing stock and more wind turbines could be permitted across the district. However, both measures had proved to be unpopular with some residents in the past. The Council could also consider introducing Sunday parking charges and could then use the additional revenue to subsidise bus services.
Chris Gillham (Winchester Friends of the Earth) stated that a live Winchester Friends of the Earth petition asking the Council to declare a climate emergency now had over 500 signatories. Whilst welcoming the report, he highlighted a number of requests outlined in the petition which had been omitted, namely:
· The establishment of a Citizens’ Assembly, to include residents from across the political spectrum (and none) in addition to under 18 year olds.
· The Council should undertake to end investment in carbon fuels.
· An ethical procurement framework should be established.
At the invitation of the Leader, Councillors Pearson, Brook and Horrill addressed Cabinet as summarised below.
Councillor Pearson expressed some concern about the lack of clear measures to tackle the climate emergency, such as an action plan or the required resources. He also highlighted the measures that were already in place such as the Air Quality Action Plan, solar panels and parking policies to encourage Park and Ride use. He suggested a number of other initiatives that could be considered, including: investing in solar panels on Council assets; encouraging taxis to convert to electric; reducing business parking in the city centre; moving the coach park and using carbon off-setting. He queried whether the Cabinet had a clear understanding of the commitment being undertaken.
Councillor Brooks stated that in her capacity as Chair of Scrutiny Committee, she had been happy to agree to this report being considered at this special meeting of Cabinet as the required 28 days notice had not been given.. However, she believed it should have been declared alongside a clear action plan, in order to best harness support and motivate people to take action. She believed that the deadline of 2024 for the Council to be carbon neutral was arbitrary and without clear evidence of achievability. She also highlighted the importance of the new administration’s proposals regarding the new leisure centre, response to the Eastleigh Local Plan and waste collection services as all key elements in tackling carbon emissions.
Councillor Horrill emphasised that the Council should be positive about achievements in carbon reduction over recent years. Agreeing a clear action plan was key to success and this should involve councillors from both political parties. The plan should include specific objectives, reference clear data and understand the resources required to deliver.
The Leader thanked all those who spoke for their contributions and suggestions.
Councillor Murphy confirmed that consultation would be carried out and would involve Councillors from both political groups. Further consideration would be given to the suggestion to establish a Citizens’ Assembly. She welcomed the offers of partnership working and emphasised that the Council would require assistance from partners in producing the action plan.
With regard to comments regarding economic impact, Councillor Weir confirmed this would be given careful consideration, being mindful that a growing and buoyant economy was not necessarily conducive to reducing carbon emissions.
In response to comments made by Councillors, Cabinet highlighted that it was reviewing development of the new Leisure Centre and waste collection contract to ensure climate matters were fully taken into account. In addition, declaring the climate emergency as soon as possible gave a clear indication that Council must take account of this declaration in all future decisions.
Cabinet agreed to the following for the reasons set out above and outlined in the Report.
1. That a ‘Climate Emergency’ be declared.
2. That Cabinet commit to an aim of making the activities of Winchester City Council carbon neutral by 2024, and the district of Winchester carbon neutral by 2030, taking into account both production and consumption emissions (scope 1, 2 and 3 of the Greenhouse Gas Protocol). A report to be published within six months setting out the immediate actions the Council will take to address this emergency and a plan to measure annual district progress towards meeting the 2030 target.
3. That Cabinet will work with partners across the district to deliver this new goal through all relevant strategies and plans and drawing on local and global best practice.
4. That Cabinet will support the lobbying of the Government in relation to the Climate Emergency and providing the additional powers and resources needed to meet the 2030 target.