A PLAN to drastically reduce harmful emissions in Wokingham is “hot air” and a set of “empty promises”.

That’s according to councillor Rachelle Shepherd-DuBey, who has condemned Wokingham Borough Council’s Climate Emergency Action Plan.

The Liberal Democrat councillor said the action plan does not include any “real projects and real dates” or “concrete plans to implement them”.

The comments were made at a meeting on Wednesday, September 16, when the Overview Scrutiny and Management Committee approved 14 recommendations for the action plan, which aims to reduce Wokingham’s emissions and its reliance on fossil fuels.

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The plan was drawn up by the Conservative-run council last year, after it declared a climate emergency and announced plans to move to net zero carbon emissions by 2030.

According to the latest figures, Wokingham emitted 771 kilotonnes (kt) of carbon dioxide (CO2) in 2017 – meaning it emitted more than the entire country of Somalia (645kt) did the previous year.

According to a council report, if all the measures in the council’s action plan are introduced, Wokingham will not be carbon neutral by 2030, as there will be “a shortfall of 72.7 kt of CO2”.

But the report also states emission levels in Wokingham will “inevitably change as new ideas come forward” because government policies and peoples’ behaviour will change.

The recommendations, discussed at Wednesday’s meeting, outline commitments to reducing car usage, ensuring key council decisions include “calculated carbon impact assessments” and increasing awareness of harmful emissions and “individual responsibilities”.

There are also promises to review emissions in Wokingham each year and survey council land to “to identify opportunities for tree planting, solar farms and other green projects”.

'Empty promises'

But at the meeting, Cllr Shepherd-DuBey said the plan should set out specific projects and completion dates.

“I just feel much better about having real projects and real dates,” she said.

“A lot of these points are very nice, but without concrete plans to implement them, I don’t believe it (the action plan) is anything more than some hot air or empty promises.

“I would like to see real dates of when they’re planning to implement these recommendations and what the KPIs (key performance indicators) will be to see if they’ve actually been delivered.”

She added: “I’m looking forward to a concrete plan, from the Executive, on how they’re going to do these recommendations.”

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Rhian Hayes, the council’s category manager for economic prosperity, said: “It’s so early on in the day, we haven’t got in firm timelines because there’s other things we need to get into place.

“It’s not just a record of what we’re doing, it’s actually a tool to help us achieve what we need, so we can see where the shortfalls are and see what projects we need to add in.

“As time moves on, we’ll populate it and put the information in as we get it. Some of the timelines will become more clear as we move forward.”

Cllr Andy Croy (Labour) added: “The exact dates aren’t there and it would be nice if they were.

“But there are quite a lot of milestones. If Rachelle wants to go and read the plan, she can see the milestones and see there is a sense of what needs to happen.”

The recommendations for the Climate Emergency Action Plan were approved at Wednesday’s meeting, and the council’s Executive will decide whether they should be accepted at a meeting in October.

The action plan says £50 million of projects carried out over the next three years will help the council cut emissions.

These include projects to improve public transport, reduce car usage and improve recycling.