COUNCIL leaders are preparing to turn their words on the environment into actions with the launch of a climate change declaration.
Newcastle City Council chiefs plan to slash waste by 15%, increase recycling to 55% and cut car travel by 4% by 2020.
And they hope to have every suitable home in the city fitted with cavity wall and loft insulation by 2015.
All these targets are part of the Newcastle Climate Change Declaration which will be considered by councillors at a meeting next week.
Overall the aim is to reduce the city’s level of harmful carbon emissions by 34% of 1990 levels by 2020.
The ruling Liberal Democrat’s executive member for the environment, Coun Wendy Taylor, who will propose the statement to councillors, said the declaration set the city realistic but challenging targets which will benefit the environment and residents.
But her Labour counterpart, Coun Henri Murison, has accused the council of not going far enough with its green pledge.
The declaration sets out a series of targets and aims, including promoting jobs in green sectors such as renewable energy, supporting businesses to cut their environmental impact and pushing the use of electric cars in the city.
The council will work with partners such as the universities, Newcastle Airport, green support services firm eaga and Warm Zone.
Of course city leaders also have the uphill struggle of trying to change the behaviour of residents in the city and have set up a series of events to take place over the course of the year, tying in with international milestones like World Environment Day and In Town Without My Car Day, to help achieve this.
Through the budget the council has pledged more than £2m over the next two years to be poured into green projects.
Coun Taylor, who will stand as the Lib Dems’ candidate for Newcastle East at the next general election, said: “This is about us having a clear statement of what we’re doing and what we’re aiming for to help partners and residents understand where we’re going. There’s no point the city council doing this on its own, we have to work with others.”
Coun Murison, who represents South Heaton, said: “We feel this statement isn’t ambitious enough. We’re not against any of the things the council is doing, but some of the targets are too low. If we want to be a green city and to tackle climate change we think the city council needs to take a bigger leadership role.”
Last year Newcastle topped a list of the greenest cities in the UK put together by think-tank Forum for the Future.
In recent days high-profile announcements about a wind turbine factory on the riverside in Walker and further cash for electric vehicle charging points in the city and across the North East have put Newcastle in the spotlight on green issues.
A total of 1,300 plug sockets for electric cars will be installed across the North East over the next three years, with 22 being put out in Newcastle in the coming weeks as part of a test pilot.
Meanwhile Durham County Council’s Cabinet is being asked to agree more ambitious targets to make the county a greener place.
Leaders are looking to toughen up targets for recycling, reducing waste and cutting carbon emissions.
Councillors will debate the declaration at a meeting on Wednesday.