Extinction Rebellion has hit out at Rochdale council for its lack of ‘significant action’ two years after declaring a ‘climate emergency’.

The authority committed to creating a carbon-neutral borough by 2038 after councillors overwhelmingly voted in favour of setting ambitious environmental goals.

The demanding target - which is 12 years earlier than set by the government - appeared to put the borough on an urgent green footing.

READ MORE: Extinction Rebellion are 'pussycats' and council should embrace them, new climate tsar says

But two years down the line, radical environmental group Extinction Rebellion - often known as XR - says it is deeply disappointed with the progress made to date.

Rev Mark Coleman, who co-founded Rochdale XR, has voiced the group’s concerns.

He said: “We elect our councillors and MPs to keep us safe and make sure that society runs well and fairly. I don’t see evidence of significant action by the local authority to cut the emissions that are heating the climate.

The newsletter that brings Manchester's political news, investigations - and a bit of gossip - straight to you

Sign up to our Manchester Memo newsletter to keep abreast of the major political issues of the week – and a few of the others that may have slipped below the radar.

How do I sign up?

  1. First just click on this link to our newsletter sign-up centre.
  2. Once you're there, put your email address where it says at the top, then tick the MEN Politics box. There are other newsletters available if you want them as well.
  3. When you've made your choice, hit Save Changes button at the bottom.

“On the contrary there are new developments - roads, housing, industry - that will bring more emissions and increase the risk of flood here, and drought and extreme temperature elsewhere”.

Rev Coleman hit the headlines in March for spray painting Chris Clarkson MP’s constituency office in protest over the ‘empty words’ from politicians on climate change.

And he admits it has been ‘disappointing to see so little action’, given the ‘big ambition and talk of a plan’ - that followed the climate emergency declaration.

The former clergyman, who retired as Vicar of Rochdale last February, says there seems to be very little visibly happening in the borough.

Councillor Sara Rowbotham MBE with Extinction Rebellion's 'anniversary card'

“I know we have the Lime scooters on trial, but this sort of thing is potentially greenwash, it’s not the fundamentals of how much carbon is being emitted,” he told the Local Democray Reporting Service .

And while Rev Coleman understands that councillors are often confronted with more mundane, day-to-day issues ‘on the doorstep’ - he believes they can play a vital role in tackling the climate emergency.

“A local authority can create a vision for the borough and say ‘there are things we can do’.

"They might not have all the powers and all the money’ but they can say ‘we want a Rochdale which is safe, where we can reduce the risk of big floods like we had in 2016, where we don’t see big fires on the moors like a few years ago and will work in a responsible way to cut emissions from cars in our borough’.”

For Rev Coleman it is transport and housing that are the ‘big issues’ to be tackled - and the authorities must lead the way.

Rev Mark Coleman at the Extinction Rebellion protests in London

“It’s massive educational task - people don’t understand climate issues and the ecological emergency,” he said.

“It’s beholden for our government, both national and local to educate people and provide some hope through meaningful action.”

But to do this, he says will need a rethink from the councillors who voted to pursue and urgent green agenda back in 2019.

“The thing that depresses me is the way politicians are still treating this issue. It needs to get beyond the whole tribal political thing,” he said.

“They all agreed to the climate emergency, pretty much unanimously, but are not really working together.”

And he urged councillors to ‘step out of the old part politics and into something new’, if they want to make a real difference.

Extinction Rebellion's 'anniversary card' marking two years since Rochdale council declared a climate emergency.

It comes after Rochale’s Extinction Rebellion made a giant ‘two-year anniversary’ card filled with messages from people in the borough.

Presented to Coun Sarah Rowbotham MBE, cabinet member for climate change and sustainability, the group hopes it will ‘spur the council into taking the urgent action needed to protect the people’.

And following the stunt - which took place outside the council’s Number One Riverside offices - Coun Rowbotham said the authority realised it would not make a difference without taking ‘radical action’.

“Extinction Rebellion are right to hold organisations to account and I want to reassure them that we are doing everything we can to play a significant part in the response to this global emergency,” she said.

"We have already taken huge steps towards reducing our carbon footprint and we have many more things that are being worked on. These include community energy programmes, more solar farms, decarbonisation schemes, planning initiatives, training for council officers and more help for residents.

"As the lead for this area I am meeting with local Extinction Rebellion representatives to go through our plans in greater detail and listening to their views.”

Coun Rowbotham had previously said the council should embrace the ‘energy and enthusiasm’ of XR, despite their sometimes controversial tactics, including ‘civil disobedience’.

And the group also praised her for having ‘the guts’ to attend the demo and accept the card while many others stayed away.

More information on Rochdale council’s approach to tackling climate change and sustainability can be found here.

Get the latest headlines with our email newsletters.