Last night Crowborough Town Councillors decided to have more meetings to enable them all to discuss the draft Climate Change Policy in more detail.
During the hour’s debate on Tuesday 9th November, councillors expressed a number of concerns included whether a requirement to purchase equipment and products with lower environmental impacts would result in a massive increase in expenditure; fears the methodology for monitoring carbon emissions was too cumbersome; and whether the Policy would prevent the Council from delivering the facilities and services wanted by the community.
Councillors, who were not members of the Working Group, said having less than a week was insufficient time for them to consider the ramifications of adopting the Policy.
Six Councillors were appointed to a Working Group in March 2020.
Crowborough’s Mayor, Cllr David Neeves, congratulated everyone involved in developing the “comprehensive” policy.
Introducing the item, the Chair of the Working Group, Cllr Alison Arthur said there was no point having a policy without substance:
If we are going to say something is important, we need to have a plan to go with it.
That was the idea behind having a measurable recordable system; so we can see we doing, what we’d said we would do.Cllr Arthur
Cllr Kay Moss explained that she was not against having a policy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but that the Council needed to be really clear about how they were going to make the decisions:
The Town Council should be doing everything it can to combat climate change. And there are things we can do – we have building that could be better insulated and we can look at the he energy we use, etcetera. However, I do have some issues with this Policy, and I was on the group that went through it, but I left the final meeting.
To my mind, at the moment it says that we must reduce by 10% a year and that nothing we do – nothing, can increase our carbon footprint.
The Town Council is here to provide services to the town, and some of those services do require things that will have a carbon footprint.Cllr Moss
After giving a few examples of the potential impact on budgets, Cllr Moss added:
We have to be clear with the electorate that these things cost money; and that they can cost – a lot of money.Cllr Moss
Suppliers would be asked if they can provide a figure for the total carbon emitted during manufacturing. Addressing concerns of his fellow councillors, Cllr Colin Stocks, who devised the methodology for recording emissions, said it is just guidance and it should not be an obstacle for adopting the Policy. It is meant to make life easier for staff to calculate carbon emissions. The spreadsheet might look intimidating, but that is because it covers the wide range of different things the Council purchases.
The Working Group have proposed appointing an additional member of staff with the right experience to focus on climate change mitigation and adaptations, and to help colleagues with the administrative burden. Earlier this year Wealden District Council appointed a Climate Change Officer.
Cllr Neil Waller wanted the Working Group to take a month’s worth of payments and apply the methodology in order to see how long it would take.
Cllr Richard Jury said, the Council’s first electric vehicle has been an unqualified success. However he had concerns about buying an electric tractor, because the technology is still in its infancy and the cost would be excessive. He said an area he was very concerned about was in the procurement section of the Policy:
No purchase should jeopardise [Crowborough Town Council’s] CTC’s ability to reach its 10% annual emissions reduction target.2.3.2 draft Climate Change Policy
Cllr Jury was concerned the Policy, as it is currently written, could prevent the Council from undertaking any major capital projects in the future. He cited the example of building to replacement of the pavilion at Wolfe Rec. Even if it had solar panels, a heat pump and good insulation, it would still have a massive carbon footprint. Cllr Stocks said a new building would be amortised (spreading over its life).
Cllr Gareth Owen-Williams said we’ve spend decades not doing enough:
It is us making a bold move. We may be the first council to do that, but that makes me proud. Not ‘oh dear, we are a bit brave’.Cllr Owen-Williams
He referred to Madagascar, which according to the United Nations is experiencing the world’s first climate change famine after four years without rain.
He was not the only councillor to refer to international news stories. When Cllr Alan Penney spoke about hydrogen-fuelled internal combustion engines instead of batteries powering electric vehicles, he made reference to protests against Lithium mining in Portugal.
Before taking a vote, Cllr Natalie Whittle issued a plea to her follow councillors to participate in a “positive and proactive way”, so that it is not used as a tactic to “kick it into the long grass”. By a 6-4 majority, the Town Council agreed to hold an informal meeting, in the first instance, in the second week of January 2022.