WEST Oxfordshire's leading councillor for the environment insists the district is 'determined' to tackle climate change - despite claims it is 'complacent' about the issue.

Norman MacRae, the district council's cabinet member for environment, will co-present a motion today calling for the authority to work towards reducing emissions to benefit 'present and future generations'.

The motion's wording has been criticised by opposition parties, with a Green councillor saying it 'lacks urgency' and Labour councillor and Witney Town Council leader, Rosa Bolger, claiming it fails to 'grasp the reality of the crisis'.

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Alongside the pledge to reduce carbon emissions, the motion, which will be co-presented with councillor Alex Postan, says: "Investing in green industries and decarbonising our economy will leave the environment in a better state for the next generation.

"One of the ways in which this has been achieved is by phasing out coal power, leading to the longest time since the Industrial Revolution without using coal to generate electricity.

"Accordingly, this council will recognise this achievement of a reduction in the use of fossil fuel, particularly in light of the climate emergency accepted by Parliament recently."

Mr MacRae denied the motion only 'paid lip service' to the climate crisis and promised more tangible policies would follow.

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He said: “We recognise there’s a problem. I want the district council to do what we can to move forward.

"The important thing is we're setting the ball rolling."


The councillor pointed to the authority's work to eliminate avoidable single-use plastics, with an action plan on the issue launched earlier this year.

One of Mr MacRae's ideas is to hold a forum for sixth form students to discuss climate change, adding he is 'determined' the district becomes carbon neutral - achieving a carbon footprint of zero - by 2030.

Many local authorities have a similar target, while the government wants to reduce carbon emissions by 80 per cent from 1990 levels by 2050.

Ms Bolger will ask the town council to commit to carbon neutrality by 2028 in a separate motion at this evening's town council meeting.

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The leader will also call for the council to declare a climate emergency and hold a public meeting 'as soon as possible', with a view to setting up a working party.


She said: "The Conservatives on the district council haven't grasped the reality of the crisis.

"Their self-congratulatory tone is complacent, when what we desperately need is action, and quickly, before it's too late.

"At Witney Town Council, our motion shows ambition and that we will deliver more than just lip service - we will actively involve the public, consult with experts and create a plan that creatively uses the powers of the council to work for real solutions."

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Green Party town councillor, Andrew Prosser, believes carbon neutrality by 2028 is 'realistic', adding: “Much more important is the influence Witney can have on reducing carbon emissions more widely.

“The district motion has no sense of urgency. They seem to be out of touch with what action is needed.”

Andrew Coles, Labour's environmental lead on the district council, added: "We have 11 years left to make the changes to have a chance, not a guarantee, of avoiding catastrophe.

"The more time we take, the more expensive the changes will become and the smaller our chances of success."

Last week, Chipping Norton Labour Party called for a climate emergency to be declared in the town.

Horsefair, in the town centre, is one of the district's two Air Quality Management Areas (AQMA), alongside Witney's Bridge Street.

Last week, Witney MP Robert Courts presented a petition to Parliament signed by West Oxfordshire pupils calling on the UK to host next year's COP26 Climate Change Summit.