Southend set to make carbon neutral pledge

A climate emergency is expected to be declared in Southend with senior councillors making a pledge that the borough will be carbon neutral in just ten years.

The declaration is expected to be made at a cabinet meeting next week, three months after councillors backed the proposal from councillors Matt Dent, Carole Mulroney and Peter Wrexham.

Not only will this mean that greenhouse gas emissions will have to be cut to almost zero by 2030, but that the council will commit to working with other local authorities to urge the Government to provide extra funding for green initiatives.

Southend’s declaration will follow a number of other councils that have already made declarations, including Chelmsford and Colchester which made the pledge in July.

Councillor Carole Mulroney, cabinet member for environment and planning, said: “Becoming a carbon neutral borough by 2030 is a huge task but one we are determined to meet head-on. We want to make a real and tangible difference across the borough and ensure we are doing our bit to tackle climate change.

“We have already committed to installing an additional 87 electric vehicle charging points across the town, and we are also currently considering a new tree planting policy, which will look to enhance the green coverage across Southend-on-Sea.”

She added that the council has already reduced emissions from its own buildings by 75 per cent since 2014 and emissions across the borough have dropped by 35 per cent since 2005.

Much of these reductions have been achieved through projects funded through the European Union but the council revealed in January that a no deal Brexit would put several of these projects under threat.

The Government has promised to provide some funding to cover EU-funded projects from 2021 through the UK Shared Prosperity Fund (UKSPF) but in a new cabinet report, the council notes that there are “currently no details as to the value, nature and timing of this fund”.

Cllr Matt Dent, who was among the councillors to propose the climate emergency, said the motion is a big opportunity to make a difference to the local environment but admitted losing the funding of EU-funded projects linked to the environment is a “definite concern”.

Steve Shaw

Local Democracy Reporter