Tonbridge council aims for carbon neutrality by 2030 not 2050 after amendment

Crucially for environmental campaigners, the motion put forward included ‘an aspiration to be carbon neutral by 2030’.

It also insists that TMBC must report back on its progress within 12 months.

Other bodies, such as Kent County Council [KCC] last month, refused to accept this date, opting to aim for 2050.

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.

The Conservative Group proposed the motion on July 9 in order to move ‘towards a more sustainable economy’.

‘We will be able to make sure that the council has appropriate measures in place addressing all areas of its work’

It included a commitment to strengthen protection of species, habitats and ecosystems, review operations to deliver more electric charging points, and renew the council’s Climate Change strategy to head for carbon neutrality.

The motion passed with near unanimous support from all political parties after amendments which had been submitted by opposition councillors to alter its wording were accepted.

These included a commitment to reduce carbon emissions to zero by 2030 rather than 2050, and to report on the progress being made by May next year.

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Only one councillor abstained, Tim Bishop, the Liberal Democrat representative for Larkfield South.

In contrast, KCC had amended a motion proposed by Green councillor Martin Whybrow, putting back the target for zero carbon by 20 years.

The Leader of Borough Council, Nicolas Heslop, said: “Doing all we can to help reduce the impact of climate change is a priority for Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council, and that is why the Conservative group put down this motion.

“We believe it is important to recognise the challenges this brings.

“By taking steps such as renewing the Climate Change strategy, we will be able to make sure that towns and villages are carbon neutral, where possible, and that the council has appropriate measures in place addressing all areas of its work.”

He added: “We are delighted that opposition councillors chose to support this important Conservative motion, and that they recognise that it is our group which is driving the work taking place in Tonbridge & Malling.”

‘We had been concerned by the lack of a target to end carbon emissions and a clear method of monitoring progress’

The newly elected Green Party councillor for Judd ward, Mark Hood, said: “We are delighted that TMBC has declared a Climate Emergency.

“We had been concerned by the lack of a target to end carbon emissions and a clear method of monitoring progress.

“Myself and fellow Green Party representative April Clark worked with other opposition councillors to present amendments to the original motion and allow the Conservative Group to consider alternatives over the weekend.”

They also attempted to change the motion further with Independent candidates for Borough Green to review the Draft Local Plan, which is currently being reviewed by the government’s Planning Inspector.

This called for the introduction of an evidence base on climate change and effective policies and guidance, so that when the Local Plan is adopted these can be enforced.

However, that amendment was defeated by all Conservative, Lib Dem and Labour councillors.

The full motion reads:

The council resolves to:

1 Declare its recognition of global climate change and biodiversity emergencies

2 Consider how the Council can strengthen local protection and enhance protection of species, habitats and ecosystems under available powers

3 Review services and operations to ensure TMBC has policies that support climate change mitigation, for example the provision of electric charging points across the borough, so that it is one of the most welcoming places in the country for driving electric and hybrid vehicles

4 Request an initial report is made to the Cabinet setting out how, in partnership with other agencies, the Council will be making positive contributions to combat climate change and bring forward a revised draft Climate Change Strategy by May 2020 including deliverable performance indicators and an aspiration for Tonbridge & Malling to be carbon neutral by 2030

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