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Bid to make Darlington carbon neutral by 2030 rejected as unachievable

CALLS for more ambitious plans to tackle climate change, including a council reaching carbon zero by 2030, have been rejected as unachievable.

Two councillors proposed tougher targets and more measures for tacking the environmental emergency following COP26 in Glasgow.

Councillor Stephen Harker suggested that Darlington Borough Council works to make itself carbon neutral by 2030 - 20 years earlier than the current aim of 2050.

He told a council meeting it would be costly, difficult and painful but 2050 was “too far away”.

He said: “I accept it’s a big ask. It’s a huge step into the unknown. It’s the biggest problem we’ve faced for generations, if not hundreds of years.

“What have we got to lose by trying?

“This is perfectly achievable if we set our minds to it.”

Councillor Matthew Snedker also proposed changing the council’s climate emergency declaration made in July 2019.

Referring to the 60s Apollo space programme, he urged the council to “take the more ambitious path”.

He said: “The costs of meeting this urgent challenge will be substantial in the short term, but the risks of missing it will be many times more and last for generation after generation.

“Our council has put itself among the least ambitious and slowest to act.

“Now, days after the closing of COP26, it is the time to redouble our efforts, revisit our targets.”

He proposed the council measure the carbon impact of its decisions and monitor and declare the borough’s carbon emissions.

Both councillors pointed to the accelerated development of Covid-19 vaccines showing what can be achieved with greater ambition.

Cllr Alan Marshall, cabinet member for the economy, said the council did not have the resources needed for the proposals.

He added: “Achieving a target of 2030 isn’t achievable. Why would we want to set ourselves up to fail? I would rather be realistic and go with the planned trajectory.”

Cllr Gerald Lee said: “We do have to be practical and we do have to be sensible. It grieves me, I’ve got to admit, because climate change is critical.

“Eight years is too big of an ask. Eight years on the resources we’ve got is far beyond our reach.”

Both motions fell as a majority of councillors voted against them.

Cllr David Willis said: “It would cost us an absolute fortune.

“2050 itself is going to the moon and this is going to Mars."

“It’s a marathon, not a sprint. In a sprint we’re going to tire out very quickly and we’ll lose the support of the public if we push them too hard."

Cllr Andy Keir said: “We should concentrate on what we can control.”