Targets and the political will to cut or offset carbon emissions in the Ribble Valley, tackle air pollution and flooding and create local sources of cleaner energy for villages were debated at the latest full meeting of the borough council, along with farming, use of land and the UK’s ability to grow enough food.

Cement manufacturing in Clitheroe, public and private transport, agriculture, heating and insulation of homes, schools and buildings such as leisure centres are potential examples of where emission controls, offsetting and better energy efficiencies may be possible.

But some councillors disagreed on climate change thinking and polices, and the effectiveness of having environmental responsibilities split between different authorities such as the borough council, Lancashire County Council and the Environment Agency.

At the start of the meeting, Conservative Coun Stephen Atkinson, Leader of the Council, discussed local and national targets to achieve ‘carbon net zero’ status in his leader’s update speech.

He believed more financial and legislative help from central government would be required for local authorities to fully play their part. The financial costs of making changes could be huge. Money would have to be found somewhere but this was unclear.

He also suggested that the Ribble Valley might not be able to reach the net zero level by the current deadlines because of the cement industry, which has a major presence in the borough with the Hanson works in Clitheroe.

The cement industry is a major contributor to carbon emissions locally, nationally and internationally yet is also a major element of the Ribble Valley’s local economy.

Coun Atkinson also queried Britain’s habit of ‘off-shoring’ issues rather than dealing with challenges at source in the UK.

In a question-and-answer session with Lib-Dem opposition leader Coun Stewart Fletcher , Coun Atkinson said: “For the council to achieve the Ribble Valley emissions target will depend on government issues because of energy use, which is fundamental to how we run our homes and businesses.

“Regarding sustainable housing, experts in Lancashire are looking at eco-houses. However, that will require national legislation. Once again, our hands are tied whatever our ambitions may be.”

Later, Conservative Coun Ged Mirfin called for further measures to support electric vehicles in the borough including taxis.

He said: “This is important and should be included in the climate change policy for the future. Let’s get a policy in place for taxis over the next few years.”

However some councillors said rural infrastructure to charge electric vehicles was currently limited and questioned whether electric power suited taxis, which operate for long hours daily.

Conservative Coun Simon Hore said new greener energy technology, such as biomass, air source and ground source heat pump systems, created new planning, farming and visual amenity questions which communities, councillors, landowners and farmers would need to get to consider.

In Chipping for example, he said the parish council had got a £40,000 grant to commission a consultant's report about cleaner energy generation locally.

He said: “A lot of Ribble Valley villages are off the gas network. As oil prices increase and supplies reduce, we are looking at alternatives. One difficulty is what can be done with land where ground source heat pumps systems are installed. Pipework below the surface means the land cannot be ploughed. You can graze sheep on the land but not much more. You can’t build on it.

“If you build other energy systems, such as biomass, that can include a little chimney and energy centre. People may not be keen on the idea of looking at these but they may have to be considered for the future. ”

However Coun James Rogerson said he was frustrated with the UK’s climate change debate, along with the lack of domestic energy and food supply crisis, which he saw as connected.

He said: “We have got an energy crisis and no national reserve. It will be a miracle if we don’t have power cuts.

“Grazed grass is the best carbon capture technique we have in the Ribble Valley. But if land for livestock is taken out of the system then we will have food chain problems.

“The Government seems keen to take agricultural land out of the food chain. It is a joke. The Government doesn’t seem interested in food production or energy production in the UK. They talk about buying our energy in advance. But why should tax-payers be subsidising big corporations that have not looked after their arrangements? ”

However, Cllr Mirfin described himself as a climate change optimist and said there was much could be done.

“This is much more than about swapping the light bulbs and batteries in our property estate. This is about public concerns, such as air quality and floods. I have been campaigning about air quality for years.

“I have raised issues about emissions from the cement works for years yet some of our climate change papers don’t mention it. I’ve had complaints from residents in the past few days about the chimney. There are concerns about household, animal or medical refuse being burnt in the incinerator.

“I’ve asked Lancashire County Council about reports on contracts for burning material and the long-term impact on the Ribble Valley. But I cannot remember an air report coming to Ribble Valley Borough Council. I think it’s very important.

“The other issue is flooding. Whalley has had two bad floods in recent years yet we have never had the Environment Agency to meet the Policy Committee, Health & Housing or the Community Services Committee.

“I’d like to see them on a regular basis to talk about air quality and alleviating flooding in the Ribble Valley. It’s really important. In recent years, we have seen the scale of the problems we face. I disagree with Coun Rogerson. The moral, economic and political case has grown.

“I’d like to see a report about green technology companies in the Ribble Valley and see how much they can contribute. I think that sector can grow in the next few years.

“Burning household waste in an old chimney is an ‘old school’ practice. We should look at alternative new ways and genuinely come into the 21st Century. It scares the hell out of me to think we can’t meet our targets because of the cement works. I can’t believe there aren’t ways to mitigate it.”

He quoted a friend and Green Party politician, Sarah Taylor, and Prince Charles in calling for councillors and politicians to be leaders in change.

This summer, Ribble Valley Borough Council published a Climate Change Strategy and agreed a corporate objective ‘to aspire to be a carbon neutral borough by 2030’ in its 2019-2023 Corporate Strategy.

Net zero would be the point when emissions of carbon dioxide or other greenhouse gases are reduced, captured at source such as industry or offset by other developments, such as green energy, farm projects or other nature restoration projects.

Carbon emissions hover between 800 and 1,000 kilotons (kt) per year in the borough. A kiloton is 1,000 tons. Emissions from local industry and commercial activity accounted for nearly three quarters of the total tonnage for the borough in 2018.

The council’s carbon footprint for 2019-2020 was 5,655 tonnes, of which fuels and transport activities are the biggest contributors.

Regarding rainfall, the borough climate strategy states that summer rainfall in the north-west region is forecast to fall by 5 to 15 per cent between 2011 and 2040, and to then fall further in the decades after.

Soil moisture content is expected to fall by 0-10 per cent in summer and autumn, and then by 10-25 per cent after that. Winter rainfall is expected to increase by 5-10 per cent up to 2040 and then by 10-20 per cent in the following few decades.

Overall, the impact could include increased farming crop failure, pests and diseases, summer wildfires, land subsidence and damage to property, and winter floods.

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