Southend urges government to support climate change plan as costs could exceed £1billion

Southend Council’s plan to be carbon neutral by 2030 could come with a price tag of more than £1billion and will only be achievable with the help of central government, a councillor has claimed.

The authority is one of many to have declared a climate emergency that acknowledges the urgency of tackling climate change while pledging to embed green policies into all future strategies.

The council is also among many others to put forward a goal of being carbon neutral by the end of the next decade – 20 years ahead of the national target proposed by central government.

To achieve this, Councillor Carole Mulroney, who oversees environment, says the target is likely to require more than £1billion in private and public sector investment over the next 10 years.

Cllr Mulroney said: “Becoming carbon neutral by 2030 is a huge task and will also be hugely expensive.

“Whilst not all actions will fall to the council, in total, it is likely to require over £1billion of public and private sector investment across the borough over the next 10 years.

“This will be replicated across the country and so it is vital we work with the Local Government Association to lobby for more funds to help councils like us.”

The council has already promised to plant 1,000 new trees while working on a new tree policy and install an additional 87 electric vehicle charge points. They have also slashed carbon emissions from council building by 75 per cent since 2014 and lowered emissions by 35 per cent across the borough since 2005.

Southend’s climate emergency declaration has received cross-party support but the plan has appeared lacking when compared with those announced by other authorities across the county.

Essex County Council has said they will plant 375,000 trees over the next five years, promised to install solar panels on council buildings and is investing £50million in improving to buses.

They have also formed a climate change commission which is focusing entirely on creating a roadmap for how green policies can be implemented.

Meanwhile, Thurrock Council lagging behind after acknowledging the significant cost of attempting to reach a 2030 goal and pledged only to make council-related business carbon neutral by 2030.

At a recent council meeting, a member of Thurrock’s cabinet, Cllr James Halden warned that aiming to make the entire borough carbon neutral by 2030 would put the council “out of step” with the government.

He said the national target is 2050 and it will only be by following that timeline that the council will benefit from extra investment from the government.

Southend’s council leaders will discuss climate emergency measures in greater details at a meeting on Tuesday.

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Steve Shaw

Local Democracy Reporter