COUNCILLORS have agreed a firm target for Cheshire West and Chester Council to become a carbon-free authority by 2030.

Members from across the political spectrum gave a fresh commitment to tackle the climate emergency at Tuesday’s meeting, including the aim for the whole borough to become zero-carbon by 2045.

It follows a report from Andrew Lewis, chief executive of CWAC, mapping out how the local authority could achieve its lofty ambitions – but with a warning there will need to be ‘radical changes’ to succeed.

Since CWAC declared a climate emergency last May, two separate groups have been researching what steps the borough can take to go carbon-free – a panel of experts led by Mr Lewis and a taskforce made up of councillors.

Labour Cllr Matt Bryan, chairman of the climate emergency taskforce, said: “This is the most important issue we will face in our lifetimes and it has been fantastic to see how seriously the council and senior leadership team have taken it.

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“There’s not an awful lot to debate in this. There’s a lot to talk about, but not debate, as the entire report is entirely science-led.”

Cheshire West as a borough pumps out four million tons of carbon a year – giving it the fourth largest carbon footprint of any UK borough – and much of that comes from heavy industry, particularly near Ellesmere Port.

The council has worked with experts Anthesis and the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change to see what steps need to be taken – including a target of cutting CO2 emissions by at least 14 per cent a year.

Cllr Paul Bowers, Green Party member for Helsby, said: “I don’t think many of us really understood the scale of the emissions that Cheshire West produces.

“The great question must be how we as a council can influence things that are outside of our own remit to reduce these carbon emissions.”

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Some steps are already being taken to help make Cheshire West’s industry greener – including the carbon capture project at Tata in Northwich.

Cllr Bob Cernik, Labour member for Winnington and Castle, told members that there has not been a ‘pushback’ from fossil fuel producers in Cheshire West to the council’s ambitions.

He added: “There is really a lot of ideas, strategic think, amongst the fossil fuel producers at the moment to what’s going to replace those fossil fuels in 2050.”

Cllr Christine Warner, chairman of CWAC’s planning committee, called for improved standards to make homes greener – with 14 per cent of Cheshire West’s emissions coming from domestic buildings.

Meanwhile, Cllr Andrew Dawson, Conservative member for Frodsham, highlighted the role of transport – which produces 19 per cent of Cheshire West’s emissions.

He added: “We actually have to take some calculated risks here to make improvements. We can’t wait. It’s important that we as a borough take our share.”

But while welcoming the work that CWAC is doing, Cllr Charles Fifield, Conservative member for Weaver and Cuddington, insisted members have to be realistic.

He said: “CO2 emissions are obviously very important. They have gone up in the last 27 years in the world, from around 23 billion tonnes to around 37 billion tonnes.

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“During that time the EU as a whole has reduced its emissions by 20 per cent, and as part of that the UK has reduced its emissions by 36 per cent.

“We’ve got to be careful of the law of unintended consequences. What has happened over many recent years is that we have improved our environmental efficiency by effectively outsourcing our pollution to the other side of the world.

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“The real issue is how effectively China reacts. I’m all for doing what we can here but the reality is that unless China does something, the whole world is on fire, so we have to be realistic about that.”

CWAC will now produce an annual update about the work it is doing to tackle the climate emergency, while its taskforce will continue to look at changes that can be made.