COUNCILLORS clashed in a fiery debate about when Buckinghamshire should aim to become carbon neutral last night.

Council leader Martin Tett (Conservative) laid down a motion calling for the county to become net carbon zero as a whole by 2050 but “possibly before this, potentially by 2030, subject to resources.”

He said: “It’s very easy to think in the last four months that the only global crisis we have is the one associated with the pandemic.

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“But there is actually another equally important threat, and that is climate change.

“I make no apology for bringing this motion to members now.

“I want to make sure that by 2050, we can hold our heads up high and be very proud that we are net zero.”

Councillor Tett called the 2050 target “challenging but realistic”, but Green Party councillor David Lyons disagreed, saying: “The science is clear: we must be carbon neutral by 2030.”

Cllr Lyons submitted an amendment to Cllr Tett’s original motion, which called on his colleagues to back Buckinghamshire becoming carbon neutral by the start of the next decade.

He added: “Buckinghamshire should be taking the lead role — not lagging twenty years behind.”

But councillor Bill Chapple, the council’s environment and climate change chief, accused supporters of the amendment of coming up with the 2030 date as it “sounds the sexiest” and insisted the council was focused on the “challenge” of becoming carbon neutral by 2050.

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Labour councillor Robin Stuchbury got behind the 2030 target, claiming this date is “what young people want” before suggesting the original motion needed more “vigour and rigour”.

The virtual meeting, held remotely over Microsoft Teams, then descended into chaos as councillors attempted to vote on the amendment using the in-app instant message feature.

A number of councillors were not able to use this function, however, meaning they had to shout out their votes randomly.

This resulted in opposition councillors calling for a recorded vote, meaning every single one of the 145 councillors present was asked for their vote audibly in a process which took 25 minutes.

Opposition councillors slammed the entire process, with one saying they had “no confidence” in it, another claiming it was a “shambles”, and another suggesting it was an “absolute farce.”

The amendment was thrown out after 109 councillors voted against and 29 voted for, with another seven choosing to abstain.

This brought the council back to the original motion laid down by councillor Tett.

Leader of the opposition, Liberal Democrats councillor Steven Lambert, laid into the 2050 target and the substance of the motion.

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He said: “This is possibly woollier than a mammoth, and as we know that is extinct, as hundreds of other species will be in this decade alone because of climate change.

“What we have got here is frankly not worthy of the new council.”

But councillor Tett hit back, accusing opposition members including Mr Lambert of “standing on the sidelines with lots of political posturing, which is easy to do when you don’t have responsibility, you don’t have a budget to manage, [and] you don’t have residents to look after.”

He urged colleagues to vote for his original climate change plan, which he described as “strong, positive and progressive” and “exactly what we need.”

Councillors voted for the original motion, with just numbers for votes against (23) and abstentions (3) being revealed by the chairman.

The meeting took place on Wednesday, July 15.

Martin Tett's full motion, which was approved, read: 

This council notes that Climate Change is a global emergency. Whilst the UK constitutes only 1% of global carbon emissions (with China, India and the USA constituting over 50%) it is important that the UK plays its part in leading the way. This change must come both within the UK but also globally. This council meeting therefore believes that mitigating Climate Change should be a priority for the new council. This should form an integral part of the council’s ambitious approach to the environment and ensuring the maintenance and enhancement of all that makes Buckinghamshire special. Council therefore proposes that the Cabinet produce proposals to work alongside national Government with the objective to achieve net carbon zero for Buckinghamshire as a whole by 2050. The council should also evaluate reaching ‘net zero’ for its own emissions no later than 2050 and possibly before this, potentially by 2030, subject to resources.

These proposals to include, but not be limited to:

 Introducing Supplementary Planning Guidance that requires all new development to contribute to the net zero target via energy efficiency

 Proactively providing for sustainable transport.

 Working with the Buckinghamshire Local Enterprise Partnership to raise awareness of the importance of working towards meeting zero carbon targets and investing in new ‘Green’ business and industry proposals.

 Extensive Carbon offset via new tree planting in partnership with communities and utilising the council’s own assets.

 Working with suppliers to develop a pathway to zero carbon emissions.  Encouraging Community Boards to lead in their localities for carbon reduction.

 Working with partners and local communities to identify local schemes that can contribute to this ambition.