Leaders at a Tayside council have been slammed for their “vacuous and complacent” approach to climate change.
Councillors in Angus voted to remove a 2045 deadline to become carbon neutral and also to take out key actions from a plan to tackle the effect of climate change on local communities.
Administration councillors said Angus was too rural to de-carbonise rapidly and questioned what other parts of the world — such as the province of Bali in Indonesia — were doing to tackle the problem.
Ian Whyte, a Kirriemuir environmental campaigner who addressed the chamber, said: “This is a declaration of climate non-emergency.”
Local authorities across Scotland have been declaring a “climate emergency” following the lead of both UK and Scottish Governments.
In June, Dundee City Council agreed to a 2045 or earlier climate neutral target date.
Councillors in Dumfries and Galloway also voted this summer to agree a 12-point plan and cut their own deadline from 2030 to 2025.
However, Angus councillors voted 15 to 11 to remove reference to creating resilience groups to help co-ordinate local responses to extreme weather, such as the flash floods that recently hit parts of the region.
They also removed a promise to work towards moving pension funds towards renewable energy and emerging technology companies.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon declared a climate emergency earlier this year.
Forfar councillor Lynne Devine of the SNP, who proposed the initial climate emergency motion, said: “I can’t believe the administration chose to put forward a vacuous and complacent amendment in an attempt to water down and also slow down, the action we need to take.
“On one hand they say they agree that there is a climate emergency, but on the other hand they want to just continue as we are. We desperately need to up our game.”
The latest Scottish Household Survey results show just under one in five (19%) of people in Angus are “still not convinced that climate change is happening”.
A Climate Change Member Officer Group (MOG), which meets every six months, manages the council’s response to climate change.
The amended motion “declared a climate emergency” and said the MOG group should continue to “decide what will be taken forward for future consideration” at the “agreed schedule.”
Council leader David Fairweather, an Independent, said: “Every day we see the effect of climate change. I was on holiday in Bali. I have never seen so many motorbikes in my life. Thousands upon thousands of them.
“What are they doing for climate change? Because on the other side of the world we are doing the opposite.”
He said the successful amendment was “simply” to keep the council’s response “inside the MOG.”
Councillor Braden Davy, Conservative, said divesting from fossil fuel companies would force public sector workers to make higher pension contributions.
He said: “We must think of this in terms of where we live. It is simply not possible, in Angus, to de-carbonise fully and rapidly, as it is in Edinburgh and Glasgow.
“Our contribution would be wiped out in a week if China constructed yet another coal fired power station.”
Perth and Kinross Council has not declared a climate emergency but recognised and accepted the National Climate Change emergency declared by the Scottish Government.
A motion recognising the seriousness and gravity of the declaration was passed in June, outlining “strategies and approaches to facilitate the transition to practices that will lead to net-zero emissions are now in development.”
Fife Council said it has not yet declared a formal emergency but it is supportive of government efforts and a declaration may be put to council.