Carbon neutral plan will have 'no impact' without countries taking action, Wakefield Conservative leader says

Wakefield Council's carbon neutral plan has received cross party support, despite the Leader of the Opposition suggesting it will make no impact without international action.

Thursday, 19th December 2019, 12:54 pm
Updated Thursday, 19th December 2019, 12:54 pm

Conservative group leader Nadeem Ahmed told a full council meeting that he supported the authority's climate emergency "from a moral standpoint", but claimed it would be ineffective while other nations continue to pump fumes into the atmosphere.

The Labour-led council has made climate change its number one issue, and created a Cabinet post specifically for it this week. New deputy leader Jack Hemingway is in charge of that portfolio.

Coun Hemingway described Coun Ahmed's remarks as "disappointing", later adding that the policy would make Wakefield a "better place to live".

Wakefield Council has pledged to be a carbon neutral organisation by 2030.

Speaking at the last full council meeting of 2019, Coun Ahmed said: "I don't want to put a dampener on climate change.

"I know it's become a buzzword but people need to do some research and see what climate change actually means.

"What contribution does it make when I take my recycling out, when India, Pakistan and China between them contribute something like 25 per cent of the world's carbon, with three billion people between them?

"If we're doing it from a moral standpoint, then I'll happily empty my dustbin.

Councillor Ahmed said he supported the pledge "from a moral standpoint", but cast doubt on how effective it would be.

"But the reality is there's countries out there much bigger than us. I know we like to think of ourselves as big, but we're a small country with a very, very small carbon footprint.

"If we're doing it from a moral standpoint, then 'tick', but if we're doing it to make an impact on the world's carbon footprint, then we're not doing it.

"I don't want to cause any offence, but I just couldn't help (saying this) because it annoys me a lot."

Several Labour councillors said they agreed with Coun Ahmed's point, but offered their full support to the plan, which was passed unanimously.

China has been criticised for its high emissions culture.

In an interview after the meeting, Coun Hemingway, who took up his new post on Tuesday: "I understand the point Coun Ahmed was making, in relation to getting co-operation, but we can make a big difference with what we're doing. Following this plan, we can make Wakefield a better place to live.

"It's going to be a big challenge. We're going to need the help and support of our partners, and national government as well. We've had massive cuts in funding, and we're not going to do this alone.

Coun Hemingway said that proposals for two solar energy farms in Ossett and South Kirkby were likely to be "crucial" to the plan.

He also said a climate summit would be held locally in February, which would enable different voices to be heard.

Coun Hemingway was appointed Cabinet member for climate change this week.

Local Democracy Reporting Service