Council leaders have affirmed the importance of ecological planning and protecting natural diversity as the authority continues its efforts to tackle climate change.

At a meeting of the council yesterday (Tuesday), councillors reiterated their commitment to becoming a carbon-neutral authority and called on central Government for support to reach their ambitious target.

The council agreed to set aside an extra £8.85 million to be spent on reducing climate change and in improving the county’s highways for walkers, cyclists and motorists.

“There is no question that significant action is needed to tackle the climate emergency,” said Cllr Nick Bennett, lead member for Resources and Climate Change.  “But we have to be absolutely sure that everything we do supports our continuing efforts to become a carbon-neutral authority by 2050 at the latest.

“Becoming carbon neutral is not something that can happen overnight but we have made huge strides in recent years. Significant changes to our buildings and the way we work have helped us more than halve our carbon emissions since 2008 – equivalent to the annual energy use of more than 7,000 residents.”

The authority has already switched to a 100 per cent renewable electricity tariff for streetlights and council buildings, has invested £1million from a recycling fund into improving energy efficiency and secured a further £480,000 of funding from the Government for the current financial year that, among other measures, is being used to install photovoltaic panels on council properties.

Cllr Bennett added: “We know that there is a long way to go to reach our ultimate target, but the results so far show our commitment to getting there.  We will continue to work with all areas of our business and with partners to identify projects and funding that will support our efforts.”

Following debate, the council has agreed to write to the county’s MPs asking them to press ministers for greater direction, detail and support to assist the council in delivering on its net-zero target.