The pace is hotting up on climate action in the Moorlands and, as ever, MCA is in the thick of it. Deadlines are looming for SMDC to finally deliver on a plan to underlie its commitment to achieve Net Zero Carbon by 2030, and much work remains to be done. In late January, Councillor Porter finally unveiled his long-awaited draft action plan and it is fair to say that the reaction to the document was underwhelming. Speaking at the SMDC Climate Committee, MCA’s Mike Jones gave the report a C-minus; some councillors were less polite. Even Cllr Porter seemed a little hesitant about the fruits of his labours. It certainly was shockingly thin on numbers, data and dates.

The new timetable is for a proper action plan for the council’s own emissions by spring – which to judge by the flowers and the birds is coming up fast – followed by a document on non-council emissions in the summer. That latter phase will be informed by the results of the various SMDC working groups, on which MCA members sit.

A public consultation is then planned in the autumn, in time for a final plan by the start of the COP-26 Climate Summit in Glasgow in November, 2021 – a full two and a half years since SMDC declared a climate emergency.

Nothing has been publicly announced but it seems clear that SMDC itself realises that this glacial pace of progress is unacceptable for a public body. Despite the protestations of the Cabinet Member that he can produce a credible plan without additional resources, few councillors, or indeed senior officers, seem to believe this and it is likely that in one way or another changes will be made in the way that the plan is developed – perhaps around May.

Whether this will involve appointing a full-time climate officer – as MCA has been arguing is necessary for some time – is as yet unclear.
But what is clear is there is such a huge gap between the rhetoric and the reality on climate change commitments, and so little has been put in place so far, that there is still time for pressure to be applied in order to achieve a realistic plan (see article on ‘How to Put Pressure on Politicians’).

SMDC has, of course, been the focus of MCA attentions at the local government level but other tiers of government matter too. MCA has been pushing for engagement with the County Council for some time, and with limited success. This may be changing. Staffordshire County Council have recently come up with a climate change plan and the cabinet member there has indicated that she would like to meet up with MCA members.

In the meantime, the County Council elections will now go ahead on May 6, and MCA will be sending all candidates a questionnaire on their individual commitments to addressing the issue of climate change in the county.