Carbon emissions put out by Swindon Borough Council will be massively cut 2030, but many councillors think that’s not going far enough, or fast enough.

Councillors on the authority agreed unanimously to back a pledge to make the council carbon neutral by the end of the decade – meaning it will produce no more carbon emissions than it removes from the atmosphere.

That will need the authority to cut its emissions by 80 per cent.

The hope is the move will drive more ideas to cut emissions that have not yet been identified.

But the borough council is already committed to spending £750,000 on replacing street lights with dimmed LED lights.

That will cut emissions from streetlighting, which accounts for 40 per cent of the council’s electricity-generated carbon.

And the authority has started replacing its 300-strong diesel vehicle fleet with electric vehicles.

It has brought in a food waste trial which it hopes will reduce waste being binned.

All new houses built in Swindon from this year will either have, or have the capacity, to have electric car charging points.

But before that agreement was reached there was some argument about whether it was enough.

Before the Conservative cabinet member for strategic planning Gary Sumner introduced his successful motion, the opposition Labour group’s spokesman on the environment Jane Milner-Barry brought her idea to the floor.

She said: “It’s quite short and simple – we call upon this council to formally adopt the policy of a carbon neutral Swindon by 2030 and further request that the leader commissions a report to determine how this aspiration can be achieved.”

She added: "A year ago this council decided against declaring a climate emergency. But since then the Local Government Association has joined several other local councils in declaring one. The LGA’s lead on the environment is council leader Coun David Renard.

“Just yesterday he was chairing the association’s conference on the climate emergency.”

Coun Renard explained he had wanted the council to set itself a target to be carbon neutral with 10 years, not the whole of the borough of Swindon.

He said: “I did chair the LGA conference yesterday, and heard from a number of expert speakers questioning whether this country would be able to meet the government’s commitments by 2030.”

He said the critical thing was to take action which had an effect, not whether a declaration was made: “A few weeks ago I was listening to probably the leading Green councillor in the country who said 'call it a climate emergency if you like, but what really matters is taking action and actually making a difference'.”

“The LGA has called for more funding for councils for this. It’s a big challenge but we need to be able to take on this additional challenge.”

Opposition members wanted the council to commit to making the whole borough carbon neutral, and thought just setting that target for only the council itself was inadequate.

But Tory members thought that ambition was unachievable and it would be pointless to make it.

The cabinet member for economy and place Oliver Donachie said: “The council can meet its target to become carbon neutral by 2030. But can the whole town meet a carbon neutral target in that time? No it can’t.”

He emphasised the importance of getting the support of business in addressing climate change and emissions.

He said: “In my lifetime I’ve heard of two things that were going to be ‘disastrous’ and ‘cataclysmic'. One was the HIV/Aids pandemic and the other the depletion of the ozone layer.

“Both of those issues were addressed largely by business – HIV by the pharmaceuticals industry and ozone depletion by removing CFCs from aerosols and fridges.

“Business will have to be involved with addressing climate change and emissions - if we set a target that frightens business off, that won’t happen.

“Let’s set a target for this council, which we can achieve and show others what we’re doing and they will come with us in addressing their emissions.”

Coun Milner-Barry was not impressed, saying: “The council’s emissions account for four per cent of Swindon borough’s. An 80 per cent cut in its emissions is just over three per cent of the total. It’s just not enough.”

Her motion, and a subsequent amendment she put forward to Coun Sumner’s motion were both defeated with the vote breaking along party lines 22 for and 30 against.

Introducing his plan, Coun Sumner said: “Some councils have declared a climate emergency without giving tangible actions. We will be a carbon neutral council by 2030.

"We will take a lead locally and in doing so make sure we can not only achieve our goals but to act in such a way that we become an exemplar for other organisations to follow."

In 2018-19 the council generated 14,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide. Of that 7,400 tonnes was from electricity and 6,600 tonnes from gas.

The motion was passed unanimously.