Biggest CO2 polluters in Norfolk: Council does not declare climate emergency
Pictured: Extinction Rebellion members at the council meeting on Thursday

Following on from the Borough Council of King’s Lynn and West Norfolk’s decision to not declare a climate emergency on Tuesday, a full council meeting was held last night on Thursday 5th September where the pertinent issue of climate change was discussed further.

Despite West Norfolk councillors hearing earlier this week that the borough has the highest level of CO2 pollution in the county, a recommendation was not made to follow in the footsteps of half of UK councils in declaring a climate emergency.

Many of these councils have set 2030 as a target date in reducing carbon emissions to zero, 20 years ahead of the Government’s 2050 target.

North Norfolk District Council were the first in Norfolk to declare a climate emergency in April of this year, and in August hosted an Environment Assembly where members of the public were able to discuss the climate emergency with elected members and NNDC officers.

A recommendation from Hunstanton Town Council’s newly formed Environmental Working Party to declare a climate emergency was also passed in August.

During the previous meeting on Tuesday, councillors heard from environmental health manager Dave Robson and senior policy and performance officer Ged Greaves, who did not give a recommendation on whether the borough should declare a climate emergency.

The council decided that they would take further time to assess the extent of the problem and decide what actions that the borough could take before undergoing urgent action.

Environmental group Extinction Rebellion King’s Lynn and West Norfolk have been lobbying the borough to take decisive action in the battle against climate change, with members of the group attending the meeting last night.

Extinction Rebellion said: “As residents of West Norfolk it is terrifying that the council will not even take basic steps towards ensuring our safety.”

“The council knows that King's Lynn is at sea level, and the councillors know that it is extremely likely that our town, and much of the land in the borough, will be lost to the sea within most of our lifetimes as a result of sea level rise and increased storm surges, yet still they refuse to acknowledge the risk or take any action. But what could be more important for the council than to act to save our town and our borough?”

“Besides the fear of losing our homes, it is also embarrassing for us to see our borough lagging behind, when over half the local authorities in the UK have already declared a Climate Emergency - and those are mostly local authorities that are less directly threatened by climate breakdown than we are.”

“It is also highly irresponsible, given that emissions from the borough are much greater than any other area of Norfolk - our borough has made a bigger contribution than others, so we bear greater responsibility.”

“Nevertheless we are confident that a Climate Emergency will be declared in West Norfolk soon - the council can't ignore reality forever.”

Cabinet member for environment Cllr Ian Devereux was asked during Thursday’s meeting what the council intend to do to combat climate change, and whether they will be taking the “bold, imaginative action” needed to reduce carbon levels and to slow temperature rise:

“The Borough adopted the Norfolk Climate Change Strategy in 2008… the strategy set two higher level goals to mitigate the impact of climate change,” Cllr Devereux responded. “Those strategies continue today. Firstly, to cut carbon emissions by reducing energy consumption and promoting a shift to a lower carbon technology.”

“Secondly, to improve Norfolk’s resilience to the change in climate, including the reduction of the socio-economic and environmental risks associated with flooding and coastal erosion.”

“At that time projects were set up to pursue these goals and over several years annual reports have demonstrated their success in reducing CO2 emissions. The implementation of those projects and others since then have continued to deliver reductions in emissions from borough council sources.”

“Recent interactions have resulted in our decision to make this work more visible and to quantify our current achievements which will enable us to set appropriate objectives and our future course of action.”

On how they are going go forward, he stated: “The first stage of our programme is to collect data, to establish a baseline for the current carbon footprint at the borough and then to identify further mitigation measures.”

“In parallel with that, we are exploring working with other Norfolk councils and the new Anglia Local Enterprise partnership, to enable us to establish the overall carbon footprint of the whole of West Norfolk.”

Cllr Devereux also noted that significant progress has also been made on the adaptation objectives, highlighting the multi-million, seventy-five-year Hunstanton Coastal Management Plan. This plan includes the repair and replacement of ageing infrastructure and to maintain flood risk management of the Hunstanton sea defences, including the implications of sea level rise:

“Over the past three months or so, the leadership of this council has established a comprehensive action plan, estimated resources and provisioned an initial budget and assigned key staff to undertake the work. In our view, this is a significant achievement,” he added.

On following in the footsteps of North Norfolk District Council in holding workshops and seminars on discussing the issue with members of the public, Cllr Devereux said that as work progresses, they will publicise their results and “no doubt” work with other bodies in delivering these.

He also noted the publicity from Extinction Rebellion and King’s Lynn Klimate Concern has influenced the council and that he hopes that through continued interaction they will achieve a better community result in mitigating the effects of climate change.

As explored in Town and Around in June of this year, the borough has the third greatest increase in emissions in the UK, which is 34% higher than the national average.

Robson and Greaves’ report from Tuesday found that West Norfolk was responsible for the highest amount of industry CO2 pollution in Norfolk, with emissions measuring 700 kilotonnes in 2017.

Transport was found to be the second largest culprit of pollution with nearly 30% of the district boundary’s emissions due to the congestion on A and B roads.