North of Tyne mayor Jamie Driscoll says he has ditched his controversial gas-guzzling Land Rover, after being urged to "lead by example" on climate change.
The Labour figurehead has come under fire in the past after being spotted driving the high-polluting 4x4 to work, having promised during his 2019 election campaign to use a bike, public transport, or electric car for his commute.
The sight of the Land Rover Defender outside the mayor's office last year sparked criticism of his environmental record, with green initiatives having been a cornerstone of his manifesto.
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But he told a North of Tyne Combined Authority (NTCA) cabinet meeting in Newcastle on Tuesday that he "did arrive here on my bike and I don't own a car".
It came as the region's leaders discussed recommendations on how to drastically cut emissions across Newcastle, North Tyneside and Northumberland.
Recent findings from a Citizens' Assembly on Climate Change, made up of 50 ordinary people from the area, urged councils and the NTCA to take such radical steps as retrofitting all houses in the area to make them more energy-efficient and scrapping a free parking after 5pm offer in Newcastle city centre.
Mr Driscoll told the cabinet meeting that tackling the climate crisis was a “vast problem” and warned that some of the assembly’s recommendations, which also included created an electric or hydrogen-powered public transport network and a commitment to plant a minimum of 300,000 trees within three years, would be beyond the powers of the combined authority.
He said that the task was a “pretty awesome responsibility” for the current generation of political leaders, but an “opportunity in so many ways” to create a zero-carbon, zero-poverty North East.
Newcastle City Council leader Nick Forbes added that climate change is also the "greatest opportunity for job creation that we have had in several generations", saying that he hoped that the North of Tyne region would become a world-class hub for the development of green technologies.
North Tyneside elected mayor Norma Redfearn urged her fellow council leaders to “make things happen” to reduce carbon emissions and not simply put the assembly’s report on the shelf.
She said: “The people of this area depend upon what happens with this agenda. There is tremendous potential which has been spoken about, but don’t let us forget about this and let our residents down.”
Richard Wearmouth, the Conservative deputy leader of Northumberland County Council, jokingly congratulated Mr Driscoll on his decision to drop the Land Rover Defender in favour of a bicycle.
He added that the area’s councils cannot be a “talking shop” when it comes to climate change, with the NTCA’s three constituent areas due to report back in the autumn on what actions they will take in response to the assembly’s recommendations.
The NTCA cabinet agreed to endorse the citizens’ assembly's collective statement saying that climate change is a “credible, urgent and real threat” and “must be a major priority for our Mayor who must lead the way and lead by example”.
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