Ahead of today’s World Environment Day (June 5), the authority stands accused of failing future generations after a motion for Kent to become carbon-neutral by 2030 was voted down.
Carbon neutrality means that as much of the greenhouse gas should be taken out of the atmosphere as is put into it – or net zero emissions.
Instead an amendment was put forward by Cllr Michael Payne, the Conservative representative for Tonbridge, and duly approved, to put the date back by two decades to 2050.
The debate was part of a call to declare a ‘climate emergency’. Parliament agreed to do so last month, as have more than 100 county, district and city authorities covering 33 million people.
Many Conservative counties, like Oxfordshire, Herefordshire and Wiltshire, have adopted the deadline of 2030 – Cornwall has identified 2025.
‘There’s lots to celebrate about the environment. It isn’t all about doom and gloom, it’s not all about scaremongering’
The national pledge, which was set out by Labour on May 1, is for the later date of 2050. It is not legally binding in terms of taking action.
Martin Whybrow, the KCC Green Party councillor for Hythe, proposed the motion for 2030 to the full council on May 23.
But Cllr Payne called for the delay until 2050, and was backed by Matthew Balfour of Malling Rural East.
He is also chairman of the Environment and Transport Cabinet Committee, with Cllr Payne as his vice-chairman.
Cllr Balfour said: “Putting a different date [instead of 2050] on it is nebulous, attention-seeking and silly.”
And Cllr Payne said: “There’s lots to celebrate about the environment. It isn’t all about doom and gloom, it’s not all about scaremongering.”
Sean Holden, Tory councillor for Cranbrook, said scientific claims about extinction of mammals by the Worldwide Fund for Nature were exaggerated.
“We need to strip away some of the more extravagant language,” he added.
‘We are heading towards the cliff edge. This amendment waters things down ridiculously, it was so predictable, it is pathetic’
Cllr Whybrow responded: “We are heading towards the cliff edge. This amendment waters things down ridiculously, it was so predictable, it is pathetic.”
Mark Hood, the newly elected Green Party councillor in Judd ward, was among those who attended the debate.
He told the Times: “We are appalled that two of the architects of its failure to set a target of removing carbon emissions are councillors from our borough.
“Michael Payne and Matthew Balfour have demonstrated why they are unfit to speak for families blighted by rising pollution across Tonbridge and Malling.
“It reinforces our belief that you can be an environmentalist or a Conservative, you cannot be both.”
He added: “KCC continues to invest in fossil fuels as part of its investments. It is part of the problem despite having a coastline which it acknowledges is extremely vulnerable to the effects of rising sea levels caused by climate change.”
Cllr Whybrow said: “How can KCC not agree a carbon neutral target of 2030 when so many councils across the country are doing so?
“The dinosaurs hold sway for now but thank heavens for all of our youngsters across the globe who went on school strike again on Friday – including many here in Kent.”