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Climate change inaction would cause Norfolk council 'significant reputational damage', warn officers

PUBLISHED: 14:29 27 May 2019 | UPDATED: 14:53 27 May 2019

Extinction Rebellion campaigner at Norfolk County Council. Picture Dan Grimmer.

Extinction Rebellion campaigner at Norfolk County Council. Picture Dan Grimmer.

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A 'business as usual' approach to tackling climate change would cause Norfolk County Council 'significant reputational damage', say County Hall officers.

Norfolk County Council's headquarters at County Hall in Norwich. Pic: Neil Perry.Norfolk County Council's headquarters at County Hall in Norwich. Pic: Neil Perry.

But there are currently no officers specifically employed to provide a strategic response to climate change issues - although that could be about to change.

Last month, the council recognised there was a need for 'urgent action' over climate change, when a Conservative motion over the issue was agreed.

It came two months after protesters from campaign group Extinction Rebellion occupied the chamber at County Hall in protest at what they said was inaction at every level of government.

The agreed motion was that the council "recognises the serious impact of climate change globally and the need for urgent action" and that it needs to "lead by example and demonstrate to the next generation our action and responsibilities in tackling climate change".

Andy Grant, Norfolk County Council's cabinet member for environment and waste. Pic: Norfolk Conservatives.Andy Grant, Norfolk County Council's cabinet member for environment and waste. Pic: Norfolk Conservatives.

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The council stopped short of declaring a climate emergency, as North Norfolk District Council and Suffolk County Council, have.

But, at a meeting on Wednesday, the newly formed infrastructure and development select committee will consider the first steps to putting the agreed motion into practice.

A report which will come before councillors suggests they should invite a number of experts to a future meeting to discuss the issues, science and options.

The committee will consider: calling on the government to provide extra resources and powers to help meet national targets; asking the cabinet to adopt a policy where the environmental impact is considered in all council decisions and for new policy and measures to tackle climate change to be forged.

But, in the report, officers say: "Given that there is no dedicated staff resource to provide a strategic response to climate change issues, this is something for consideration."

And officers warn a 'business as usual' approach is "likely to lead to significant reputational damage, particularly as neighbouring councils have already adopted proposals in support of action addressing climate change".

Andy Grant, the council's recently appointed cabinet member for environment and waste, said: "I have said to officers that I want to see bold and radical vision, but it has to be feasible."

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