Tory councillor blasts Lib Dems over blocked climate action claims

Climate Action

Eric Buckmaster (bottom) hit back at Steve Jarvis' claims the Conservatives blocked climate action on the hottest day ever recorded in the UK. - Credit: Archant

A Conservative Hertfordshire county councillor has blasted the Liberal Democrats over claims that the Tories blocked proposal to lower carbon emissions.

On Tuesday – the hottest day ever recorded in the UK – Hertfordshire Tories voted down a Liberal Democrat proposal to require the lowest carbon emissions from new homes built on land that the council sells, following the internationally recognised Passivhaus standard.

“Thousands of houses are likely to be built over the next few years on land that Herts County Council owns,” said Steve Jarvis, country councillor and Liberal Democrat spokesman for environment.

“If they are built to current standards this will result in more than 10,000 tonnes of extra CO2 emissions every year. It is vital that they are built to standards that prevent this happening.

“Not only would it help deal with the climate emergency but it would cut the energy bills of people who will live in these houses.

“Unfortunately, the Conservatives argued that doing this by building homes to a recognised low carbon standard would be ‘too restrictive’. They also said that it might mean that developers paid the council less money for the sites, which I suspect is the real reason.

“What they are ignoring is that if temperatures of 40 degrees become the norm the council will find itself spending far more on caring for vulnerable adults, repairing melting roads and expanding the fire service to cope.

Most Read

“Hertfordshire County Council needs to show that it is serious about dealing with the climate emergency that we have all seen evidence of this week. Coming up with poor excuses for not taking actions within its power is not the way to do this.”

But, Conservative Eric Buckmaster, HCC’s executive member for the environment has hit back at the Lib Dems' claims.

“The Liberal Democrats have a particular habit of introducing motions on workstreams that they know are already underway, or are phrased in a way that are both specific and woolly at the same time and therefore incapable of amending and which results in being voted down,” he said.

“To say in their motion that ‘if possible’ and ‘subject to best consideration’, ‘Passivhaus’ or equivalent’ without any notion of what ‘equivalent’ or ‘best consideration’ might mean for any given circumstances actually renders the motion pointless so from that regard was naive. The game is for them to then say we are not supportive of their proposals.

“We are not prepared to pander to blatant politicking and when the motion adds nothing to the ambitions we hold for the highest possible standards of emissions reduction and carbon reduction on HCC land and in conjunction with attracting partners with the highest credentials.

“It was the naively expressed motion that was voted down, not the ambition. It is they, the Liberal Democrats, who are not serious by behaving in this way and we have no hesitation in calling them out.

“Not only do we aim to achieve high sustainability standards in new sites, our record on carbon reduction initiatives on existing buildings in the past year is significant.

“Solar panels have been received at 81 sites, delivering direct reductions in carbon emissions, and improving the council’s portfolio of renewable energy sources.

“The panels have been installed across county council’s schools and non-school’s property portfolio including libraires, fire stations and youth centres.

“Cavity wall insulation and double-glazing works have been completed on 15 school sites. The programme will deliver significant energy efficiency measures and heat retention across all included sites.

“The installation of air source heat pumps and accompanying heat distribution works are currently being delivered across two school sites and eight non-school sites. Works have been completed at both school sites, with works across the council’s non-school sites to be completed by June 2022.

“Once completed, these works are expected to deliver improved energy efficiency and significantly reduce carbon emissions across all sites.

“The transcript of what I said at the council meetings explains more.

“I said ‘whilst we agree with the broad intention behind this motion, limiting to a specific standard such as Passivhaus in this way is actually quite restrictive. There are also other standards public bodies use such as Breeam.

“‘And yes, there may also be circumstances where prospective developers can demonstrate that lower embedded carbon in materials used in construction is the right approach.

“‘So, we think a slightly more nuanced approach is needed to meet our broader range of sustainability ambitions as well as carbon’.”