The first weeks of lockdown, when people rediscovered local shopping and produce, should provide a model for a lower-carbon future, councillors have heard.
One year on from Telford and Wrekin Council’s vote to declare a “climate emergency”, Councillor Tim Nelson urged members across the political divide to work together on a “Think Green Think Local”.
The Conservative, who represents Newport North and West, said “that brief period of peace, when the turmoil and stress stopped, the sun shone and we all looked inwards to our homes, communities and localities” held lessons about reducing food miles and eating seasonally.
But debate on his motion was cut short when the speaker ruled it was proposing changes to the Labour cabinet’s existing “Becoming Carbon Neutral Action Plan”. As such, council rules required it to be referred to a future cabinet meeting without debate at the full council.
Before the meeting, which was held remotely, Cllr Nelson tabled a motion saying: “This council resolves for all political groups to join together to develop a community ‘Think Green Think Local’ strategy for the Borough.”
Opening the debate, he acknowledged the cabinet had already approved its “Becoming Carbon Neutral” action plan, and praised the fact that its measures now have “deadline dates, practical deadlines and accountable parties”.
He said: “The strategic direction we ask members, right across our politics to take, is to make our green strategy local.
“This is how we will deliver carbon emission reductions, improve our diets, unwind our lifestyles and protect our environment now and for the future.
“Lockdown prompted the idea. I ask you all to recall that brief period of peace, when the turmoil and stress stopped, the sun shone and we all looked inwards to our own homes, and then inward to our own communities and localities.
“No matter that we were, in some cases, prevented from going to work and obliged to remain in our houses, gardens and local streets. We also all knew why and embraced the need.
“People explored their local area, walking and cycling as families. Some people started growing their own food. The corner shop near me was closed for years. It is, now, open and trading again.”
He asked for local expertise to be used to make the most of Shropshire produce, reducing food miles, and combat soil and insect biodiversity depletion in the county.
Seconding the motion, Conservative opposition leader Andrew Eade said: “We have to grab this one-off opportunity to break the mould of our post-war patterns of our life.
“The declaration of a climate emergency is an absolutely meaningless gesture unless it is followed by a radical shift in policy to lead to the rebuilding of our local community and economy.”
Councillor Carolyn Healy, who represents the Ironbridge Gorge and holds the climate change portfolio, pointed out that Cllr Nelson’s motion proposed “a development or replacement of” an existing strategic plan.
Monitoring officer Anthea Lowe, whose role includes ensuring the authority’s constitution is followed, confirmed that procedure rules say: “A motion about a matter that is the responsibility of the leader/cabinet executive shall, upon being moved and seconded, stand referred without discussion to the leader/cabinet executive”.
Speaker Arnold England ruled that is should be referred to cabinet.