AFTER repeated challenges over the speed and scale of its carbon cutting actions, North Yorkshire County Council has made a U-turn to declare a climate change emergency, several years after Craven District Council.

In a move which was notably not accompanied by the issuing of a press release, North Yorkshire County Council’s executive agreed the authority would be immediately adopting climate emergency, following in the footsteps of several hundred British councils.

Senior councillors said the significant change in position by the Conservative administration had followed it listening to the requests of elected members from a number of political groups alongside concerns that not declaring a climate emergency could prove a distraction from its significant green efforts.

Commitments made by the council include support for the York and North Yorkshire Local Enterprise Partnership’s ambition to be the UK’s first carbon negative region – carbon neutral by 2034 and carbon negative by 2040.

These ambitions have been endorsed by the leaders of the Councils of York and North Yorkshire in the devolution deal requests submitted to government in December 2020.

An independent commission set up to examine levelling up for rural communities in the county last year found tackling climate change should be a priority, backing other ambitions for North Yorkshire to become a ‘green lung’ and to lead on employment in the green economy and a revolutionary energy transition.

In addition, the authority, which is the region’s largest employer, has sought to change staff work bases to cut commuting emissions and has made a £1m pump-priming fund available to support new carbon cutting projects, with just under half of the fund already allocated.

Nevertheless, neighbouring councils in Leeds, Darlington and York, as well as district and borough councils in North Yorkshire such as Richmondshire and Craven, declared a climate emergency in 2019.

At the time North Yorkshire County Council stopped short of doing so, instead committing to producing a carbon reduction plan.

Since then, and particularly following May’s elections, North Yorkshire council’s leadership has faced increasing numbers of requests from campaigners and councillors to formally declare a climate emergency.

A meeting of the council’s executive heard the authority’s leadership was “absolutely committed” to getting its own carbon emissions in order.

Councillor Greg White, climate change executive member, told the meeting the authority was “keen to affirm how serious we are about tackling climate change” by declaring a climate emergency and pledging to play its full part in cutting carbon emissions.

He said the authority was doing everything possible to reduce its emissions and meet a challenging net zero emissions target it had set for 2030 while protecting key services.

The council’s deputy leader Councillor Gareth Dadd told the meeting significant carbon cutting progress had been made across the council’s many properties and workforce.

He said: “It’s often said that actions speak louder than words. Well I think as an authority we can be very proud that we have acted in a very positive way after recognising the climate emergency two or three years ago.”

Following the meeting, Coun White said the authority had previously been reluctant to declare a climate emergency as it could be viewed as putting words above actions.

He said the council was already undertaking most measures people associated with tackling the climate change emergency.