Finance boss: What services should council cut for climate emergency?

Extinction Rebellion protest outside Weston Town Hall.

Extinction Rebellion protest outside Weston Town Hall at the start of the inquiry over Bristol Airport's expansion plans. - Credit: Simon Holliday

North Somerset’s carbon reduction target has been “shot out of the water” and will not be met without cuts to council services, the finance boss has warned. 

A climate emergency progress report said emissions are not falling at a fast enough rate and those from emissions are likely to increase over time. 

Councillor Ash Cartman said the council would not succeed without government support and asked what services should be cut to speed up progress. 

Bridget Petty

Cllr Bridget Petty. - Credit: Stephen Sumner

Climate emergency champion Bridget Petty said if tough decisions are not made now, life will be worse for future generations, and urged everyone to do what they can. 

The council declared a climate emergency in February 2019 and aimed to be carbon neutral by 2030, 20 years earlier than the country as a whole. 

The district is currently unlikely to hit that target this century. 

Cllr Petty told the full council meeting on September 21: “We have done the easy things first and now the hard work begins. 

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“Reaching net zero is not a simple task – it requires transformative trade change across the whole country. 

“If we take more than our fair share now we leave our children and our grandchildren with an even harder time to live through. It is not what I want for our children. 

“At current levels we will use up our carbon budget by 2026.”

That carbon budget was meant to last until 2100. 

Cllr Petty said the world was already living with an increased global temperature, with floods in Germany and Belgium over the summer that claimed 200 lives, and recent downpours that flooded Ravenswood School in Nailsea. 

Cllr Steve Bridger said the council needed to consider resilience to climate change. 

“Our council assets, our estate, a lot of it is barely fit for purpose. Some of it is broken, frankly, after years and years of under investment. 

“We need to be brave and make the right decisions.” 

Cllr John Cato said: “If we carry on as we’re going now we will hit net zero in around 2106 – that is nothing like 2030. 

“We all have a responsibility to look at everything we do and ask the question, could we do it better?”

The climate emergency report says transport accounts for 43 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions, 24 per cent are domestic emissions and 24 per cent are non-domestic. 

Since the 2018/19 base year, total emissions are down by 23 per cent, through measures like upgrading streetlights to LEDs and the move to home working that was accelerated by Covid-19. 

Cllr Steve Hogg – who proposed refusal of Bristol Airport’s expansion plans that are currently being considered at a public inquiry – said if aviation emissions are not included in the figures the council is “spitting in the wind”. 

“No matter what the outcome of the inquiry, I think those of us that were brave enough to stand up against it will be shown to be on the right side of history,” he said. 

Cllr Ash Cartman, the executive member for finances, said: “The reality of this situation is that we’re not only going to not make it in 2030 – we’re not going to make it until the next century. Let’s be honest, our target is shot out of the water, and we need to accept that. 

“A third of councils are doing things that actually go in the opposite direction. We are one of them. 

“We’re not going to make it without government money. We either revise our plan or we look to cut our cloth differently. 

“If you want to achieve this by 2030 or 2040 or 2050, what do you want to cut? That’s the choice this council has to make. Is it children services? Is it adult social care? Is it our planning department?

“It’s budget time. You need to tell me what you want to cut to pay for it. That’s the reality of climate change for local councils in Britain now, sadly.”

Cllr Petty replied: “We’re on tighter budgets than we ever have been and we face difficult decisions but we know it will cost us all more if we don’t put it in our budgets and think about it today.” 

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