Climate change needs to be at heart of all council policies say campaigners

Members of climate action group Extinction Rebellion Wigan with Pete Hewitson centre
Members of climate action group Extinction Rebellion Wigan with Pete Hewitson centre

Green campaigners have highlighted how slowly Wigan is becoming more environmentally-friendly and are urging the council to take action.

Analysis of new Government figures shows that between 2016 and 2017 carbon emissions in the borough went down by just two per cent.

Paul Barton

Paul Barton

This means that at current rates Wigan will not become zero carbon for more than 140 years, rather than within little more than a decade as scientists and environmentalists want to see.

Wigan’s rate of curbing emissions is also the second slowest out of the 10 boroughs of Greater Manchester.

Green campaigners are demanding changes but Wigan Council has moved to stress how seriously it is taking environmental issues.

Local authorities across the country, including Manchester and Bury, have been declaring climate emergencies and Wigan is being urged to follow suit.

The subject is expected to be discussed at this week’s full council meeting.

Pete Hewitson from Extinction Rebellion (XR) Wigan said: “This should act as a massive wake-up call to Wigan, revealing the scale of change that is necessary.

“We plead with the council, for the sake of all our children, grandchildren and future generations, to show real leadership on this issue.

“Extinction Rebellion demands that Wigan Council tells the truth by declaring a climate emergency, acts now to halt biodiversity loss and reduces greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2025, and goes beyond politics to create a citizens’ assembly to lead decision making.”

The data shows 1,371,300 tonnes of CO2 were emitted in 2016 in Wigan, falling slightly to 1,343,500 tonnes in 2017.

In order to become zero carbon environmentalists reckon emissions need to fall by around 95 per cent.

It is expected Coun Carl Sweeney, portfolio holder for planning and environmental services, will address elected members on Wednesday night about a climate emergency.

The council is also keen to show the work it is already doing to become greener.

Paul Barton, director for environment at Wigan Council, said: “It is one of our key ambitions to become a cleaner, greener borough and we’ve accelerated our plans to make this happen.

“We have to tackle this collectively and are supporting the development of the Greater Manchester Clean Air Plan.

“We’ve already taken measures to improve air quality and reduce vehicle emissions by investing in walking and cycling infrastructure across the borough to encourage more people to leave the car at home and use a more sustainable mode of travel.

“The Wigan town centre cycling scheme and the investment in Astley to the Bee Network scheme are just two examples of this.

“As an organisation we’ve purchased our first electric council vehicle, with plans to extend this programme, and council staff are encouraged to work flexibly from a location that suits them, to reduce the number of journeys and cars on the road.

“We’ve also got a plan to transform Makerfield depot to become more carbon friendly by installing solar panels, replacing all lighting with LED movement sensors and harvesting the water from the roof to wash vehicles.

“We’ve just been named the top recycling town for plastic in the UK and our recycling rate has increased since moving to three-weekly bin collections which encourage people to recycle more, recycle right and mean we send less black bin waste to be disposed of.

“We remain committed to working with partners and with residents to ensure a cleaner, greener borough for future generations.”