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Wiltshire Council’s Draft Climate Strategy – too little, too late?

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WILTSHIRE Council has just completed its consultation on its draft Climate Change Strategy which, the council says, will help to shape the next five years of the council’s fight against climate change. In response, Wiltshire Climate Alliance (WCA) has published the following response.   

WCA welcomes the fact that Wiltshire Council is developing a climate strategy.  The strategy acknowledges the serious and urgent nature of the climate emergency, includes encouraging words about the council’s commitment to action, and sets out sensible objectives for what needs to be achieved.  

However, there are three fundamental contradictions at the heart of the strategy which undermine its apparent recognition of the problem of climate change: 

• Lack of urgency. The scientific evidence that humans are the cause of global heating is beyond dispute. The latest IPCC report tells us we are likely to exceed 1.5C (the widely accepted safe threshold) in the 2030s.  

Whilst the strategy states ‘we need to put actions in place now’, the ‘delivery plans’ specifying these actions are not due to be completed until 2022/23 or beyond.  It is already 2½ years since Wiltshire Council acknowledged the Climate Emergency, and over a decade since it started working on climate strategy.  

Since early action is critical to keeping on track with the science, Wiltshire Council seems to be setting itself up to fail.

Lack of meaningful action. Despite the acknowledged need for action, the strategy fails to set out specific measures and targets; it claims these will follow via ‘delivery plans that will provide more detail on how the objectives will be delivered’.   

The ‘areas of focus’ that are set out in the strategy are mainly about further research, investigation and analysis, rather than actually reducing emissions.

• Ambiguity about the zero carbon target. The strategy states the ‘ambition for Wiltshire as a county… to achieve carbon neutrality by 2030’. However, Richard Clewer, the leader of Wiltshire Council, has said repeatedly that he does not believe that this target is achievable.  

This basic contradiction needs to be addressed, by defining a strategy with achievable targets, based on concrete action plans and committed to by the council’s leadership.

“These contradictions are explored in our report, which includes our proposals on how a more effective strategy could be developed, and specific suggestions for actions under each of the ‘themes’ of the strategy.”  

Bill Jarvis of WCA said, “Wiltshire Council already has the power to do much of what is needed to achieve its climate emergency goals.  There is no time to waste.  The council needs to start treating climate change as the emergency it has already acknowledged, and act quickly and decisively to bring about the radical change required.” 

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