SOLIHULL Council’s new leader is under pressure to announce a ‘climate emergency’ in the borough after spearheading West Midlands Combined Authority’s declaration last week.
Solihull Green Party opposition councillors are demanding immediate action from leader Ian Courts after Solihull Council’s ruling Tory group’s refusal to endorse their ‘climate emergency’ motion in February.
The West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) declared a ‘climate emergency’ with fanfare at a board meeting on Friday (June 28).
Much to Green councillors’ surprise, the report which prompted the declaration was proposed by Coun Courts in his role as WMCA portfolio lead for environment, energy and HS2.
He celebrated the declaration in a WMCA press release and claimed chiefs were ‘listening’ and have a ‘massive leadership role’ to play in fighting toxic emissions.
He even said: “This report recognises the importance of climate change as an issue across the combined authority.”
But eyebrows have been raised by Solihull Green councillors.
Despite the WMCA’s declaration falling well short of their full demands, they are calling on Coun Courts to recognise the issue as an ’emergency’ in Solihull.
He has since told us that Solihull Council is ‘aiming’ to be net carbon neutral by 2030, but would not explicitly commit to a ‘climate emergency’ declaration.
Coun Courts told us: “As I said at my first council meeting as leader in May, climate change is the most important issue of our generation.
“We have a wide reaching action programme flowing from the clean air strategy and are also exploring the potential of a town centre heat network.
“Carbon reduction is vital, but it is just one of the tools that need to be applied and in Solihull the council aims to be net carbon neutral by 2030.”
The Green Party at a full council meeting on February 28 submitted a motion which featured a commitment to declare a ‘Climate Emergency’- and pledge to be carbon neutral by 2030.
Ex-leader Bob Sleigh resolved for the motion to be referred to the relevant cabinet member for further consideration – prompting fury from Green councillors.
Greens councillor Max McLoughlin criticised the WMCA for not yet pledging to reach carbon neutrality by a certain date.
But the WMCA decision states: “A ‘climate emergency’ requiring urgent action was declared, and it was agreed to receive a further report at the next meeting on July 26 with a proposed regional target for carbon reduction and a report to a meeting in the Autumn setting out a practical action plan for delivery.”
Pressure is now mounting on Solihull Council after neighbouring Birmingham City Council made a declaration and committed to becoming a zero-carbon city by 2030.
On hearing news of WMCA’s declaration, Coun McLoughlin said: “The only way in which you tackle a problem is by first acknowledging that one exists.
“The combined authority is at least acknowledging the problem exists, which isn’t what Solihull Council did in February.
“You can only tell how far someone is going with something based on the targets and commitments they give.
“The reality is this is an emergency and we need to be talking about net zero carbon emissions by 2030.”
The WMCA in a report prepared for the board meeting said it was ‘considering’ a recommendation by the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change to reach net zero carbon emissions (or near zero) no later than 2041.
Solihull Council is due to discuss the Green’s ‘climate emergency’ motion at a meeting on November 28.