Last night Hastings Borough Council (HBC) voted unanimously to make the town carbon neutral by 2030 – putting tackling climate change at the heart of council policy.
Sustainable energy generation on council land could see the council supplying 30 per cent of the town’s electricity in 12 years time.
HBC leader Peter Chowney told councillors and members of the public in a packed council chamber: “The council owns about 25 per cent of the land mass in Hastings…. We have a lot of space that we can do something with to try and combat climate change.”
Sustainable energy generation was ‘controversial’, he admitted, noting opposition to proposed solar panels on an area in the Country Park: “But we have to look everywhere,” he said.
Council officers were also considering the viability of installing wind turbines along the seafront, “It’s an ideal place. That will be controversial but I think we have to face those controversies if we are to make our contribution towards combatting climate change and towards the goal of making Hastings carbon-neutral by 2030.”
Mr Chowney earlier dropped a clause in the motion which said the goal would be reached by ‘2050 at the latest’, agreeing with the Green Party that this was not ambitious enough.
A committee will monitor council decisions to check if they are compatible with this goal and the council will also appoint a ‘Climate Change Champion’. Local people and voluntary groups will be invited to get involved.
Councillor Maya Evans, seconding the motion, put the council’s sustainability drive in a wider context.
In a stark warning, the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has said the world has only 12 years to to limit global temperatures to 1.5 C above pre-industrial levels or face drought, floods, mass extinctions of animals and extreme heat and poverty for millions of people.
“We are currently facing a climate emergency that will impact on every person on the planet. Man-made climate change is the biggest challenge facing us today,” Ms Evans said.
“In the last seven years we have experienced the six warmest years on record. What we do in the next 12 years is perhaps the most crucial few years in human history.
“Everybody here has the responsibility to do all they can to avoid irreversible climate change.”
Climate change was a “universal leveller” she said. “It stretches across the world from the forest fires to the Arctic Circle to the rapidly declining bird populations across Europe.
“What happens on the other side of the world will impact us here. It’s predicted that here in the UK we will have a trebling of heat-related deaths by 2050.”
Climate change was a key focus of the Labour party, “Fuel poverty means that people cannot afford to heat often poorly insulated homes.”
“Through this motion we want to work towards putting the poorest people into eco homes that are cheap to heat, using affordable energy generated by our own renewable energy company,” she told fellow councillors.
Conservative councillors backed the motion, which was passed unanimously but Labour rejected a Tory amendment that would have made tree planting a priority.
Labour was all for planting trees, said Mr Chowney, but not as a priority. Though he left the door open for a future motion on trees and biodiversity, and said the Labour group “would almost certainly support it”.
Other key points in the council motion were to:
- Procure locally where possible, prioritising goods and services that are less dependent on fossil carbon, and prioritising companies who are taking steps to reduce their impact on climate change;
- Introduce policy requirements that new buildings should meet the most rigorous possible energy efficiency standards and include electric vehicle charging points in new housing and commercial developments;
- Ensure council land is maintained in a way that maximises species diversity and mitigates species extinction;
- Encourage existing supermarkets to install EV charging points, lobby East Sussex County Council to take up existing government grants to install on-street EV charging points, and press for a properly co-ordinated national EV charging network;
- Build on its existing single-use plastic policy by not only eliminating single-use plastics in council buildings, but also at festivals and events held on council land. It will also strongly encourage local businesses to cut back on their use of single-use plastics;
- Use funding streams and planning conditions (and any available future powers) to continue the development of an off-road walking and cycling network as specified in the council’s Local Plan.