'Greenwashing' - Councillor criticises zero-carbon plan

Timothy Birt, Green Party councillor for Saham Toney. Pic: Green Party.

Timothy Birt, Green Party councillor for Saham Toney. Pic: Green Party. - Credit: Green Party

A Green Party councillor has warned against "greenwashing", as a Norfolk council prepares to set a target date to reach carbon neutrality.

At a meeting of Breckland council’s cabinet on Monday, executive member for customer engagement Ian Sherwood said: “2021 is here and for Breckland it will be the year we adopt our sustainability policy and we go forward to take further climate action.” 

“Breckland will be taking direct action... including setting a date for when we will as a council become carbon neutral.” said Mr Sherwood.

“This is all exciting stuff and I’m really pleased that we’re having this going forward over the coming months,” he added. 

Breckland councillor and Conservative party agent, Ian Sherwood. Picture: Breckland Council

Conservative Breckland councillor Ian Sherwood - Credit: Breckland District Council - Credit: Archant

But Green councillor Timothy Birt said that the report’s use of the phrase “carbon off-setting” did not reflect the minutes of the meeting the phrase had supposedly been used at. 

“I think this carbon off-setting thing just keeps being re-inserted back in, when actually I think there’s a desire to say we really, really should not be doing this - we can’t buy ourselves out of an obligation,” said Mr Birt.

He added: “Carbon off-setting is a bad thing and we need to not be accused of greenwashing or buying out of our obligations.”

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Mr Birt also took issue with the adjective “appropriate” in the report's reference to finding the “most appropriate date for the council to achieve carbon neutrality”. 

“It doesn’t sound particularly urgent considering that this is a climate emergency,” said Mr Birt.

“I wonder whether we can be a bit more proactive and say what we’re going to achieve, that we’re actually going to push ourselves and do something which is special and extra,” he added.

Mr Sherwood responded: “I think you and I agree that carbon off-setting is not necessarily the best way to go forward.”

He added that Mr Birt was “absolutely right about wanting to be ambitious and wanting to set an achievable target for when we can do that [reach carbon neutrality].”

“At the moment I still think it has to be in there as an option - not a preferred option, but it has to be in there. 

“Members will ultimately make the choice of the target date we set for carbon neutrality, and they will also make the decisions of how we choose to get there.”