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Demands for Plymouth MPs to act on climate change

Friday, 24 November 2023 14:32

By Alison Stephenson, local democracy reporter

Tom Briars-Delve (Labour, Stoke) (Image: Tom Briars-Delve)

But Labour motion is wasting time say Tories

Plymouth’s MPs are being asked to lobby the government to speed up action on climate change ahead of a conference of world leaders later this month.

The Labour-led city council agreed a motion this week to express disappointment that the government has “reversed” key environmental commitments and did not use the king’s speech to present urgent environmental legislation such as the climate and ecology bill.

It is calling on the city’s MPs to lobby ministers ahead of Cop 28 – the United Nations climate change conference in Dubai – urging them to support the proposals by the all-party parliamentary group on climate change.

But the Conservatives called the move “time wasting” and that the council should focus on how it is going to resolve “its ever-growing deficit.”

The climate and ecology bill, which is going through parliament, is to help the country meet its legally binding target of net zero carbon emissions by 2050 and reverse the “destruction of nature.” It was written by scientists, experts and campaigners.

In September, prime minister Rishi Sunak extended the ban on the sale of new diesel and petrol cars from 2030 to 2035. He said it would support manufacturers and families in making the switch to electric vehicles, but it was a move that divided the country.

City council cabinet member for the environment and climate change Tom Briars-Delve (Lab, Stoke) said the government had also delayed the ban on off-grid boilers and scrapped the requirement for landlords to meet energy efficiency targets, but there was little in the king’s speech that addressed that narratice.

“The climate change committee, who advise government on these matters, says this would increase the risk of not achieving net zero by 2050 and it’s also likely to put more long term energy costs onto people and higher motoring costs,” he said

“Let’s not forget that the rise in gas and oil prices were some of the main causes of the cost of living crisis.”

He said the UK is one of the most nature-depleted countries in the world, where 151 animal species had become extinct.

His motion included a commitment to tackling the climate and ecological emergencies locally by developing an updated net zero action plan with additional decarbonisation commitments, and a new plan for nature recovery.

Cllr James Stoneman (Con, Eggbuckland) denied his party had reversed on its key commitments and proposed an amendment to delete this from the motion.

He said: “People do not have the funds to move to an electric car straight away. An extra five years gives them the time to transition.”

Cllr Lee Finn (Con, Budshead) said the delay would allow alternatives like hydrogen power and synthetic fuels to be developed which would become more affordable.

Cllr Patrick Nicholson (Ind, Plympton St Mary ) was in favour of the motion and supported a robust nature recovery plan.

The motion was supported by 36 councillors, with 16 abstentions.

Conservative leader Andy Lugger (Con, Southway) said after the meeting: “The government has a clear and pragmatic plan to deliver on net zero by 2050 and has introduced new laws that will protect our natural environment and reduce the pollution in our rivers and seas.

“This Labour proposal will only waste time, when we should be focusing on how we are going to spread wealth and opportunity throughout Plymouth through our new freeport or by improving our public realm.”

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