Councillors accused of “virtue signalling” over climate emergency support
News | Niall Griffiths - Local Democracy Reporting Service | Published: 15:08, Wednesday May 15th, 2019.
Caerphilly County Borough Council has been accused of “virtue signalling” for declaring a climate emergency while dismissing immediate action against a “carbon catastrophe” in the borough.
Senior councillors want to pass a motion committing the authority to becoming carbon neutral by 2030, while calling on Welsh and UK governments support to reach their goal.
But the move has been criticised after the council adopted a ‘do minimum’ approach towards tackling air quality issues on Hafodyrynys Road in Crumlin – one of the most polluted streets in Wales.
In March, cabinet members voted against the demolition of 23 houses in favour of waiting for vehicle emissions to improve over time – a decision deemed unlawful by Welsh Government.
The climate motion was dismissed by Independent councillor Graham Simmonds for failing to include the “potentially massive costs” of lowering carbon emissions.
“There’s a number of industries that need to be established before we move to low carbon,” he told the newly established environment and sustainability scrutiny committee on May 14.
“When will we have cost analysis, do we know the cost to the local authority and Welsh economy of moving to this policy?”
He added: “I think this is a policy too far at this rate. We have a carbon catastrophe happening in front of us with Hafodyrynys and these councillors decided to do nothing.
“This is virtue signalling. We’re exacerbating global warming, but we can do nothing to control it.”
Deputy council leader Sean Morgan argued that refusing to declare a climate emergency would provide “no ammunition” to ask developing countries to move to sustainable energy sources.
Cllr Morgan said continuing to use carbon in the same way is the option preferred by the President of the United States, Donald Trump.
“If you simply think it’s a step too far and we should continue the way we are, I’ll accept that, and that’s the opinion of Donald Trump,” added Cllr Morgan.
“Most people, including 97% of scientists in the world, would disagree and say that we need to move away from this situation.”
If approved by all councillors, the authority plans to develop a “clear energy plan” for a route towards carbon neutrality.
Committee members suggested that the council should generate its own power through clean energy, while also calling for planning law reforms that require developers to include more woodland within their housing plans.
The motion was eventually passed and supported by the committee, while Cllr Simmonds was the only councillor abstain from the vote.