WINCHESTER civic chiefs have declared a ‘climate emergency’ following a meeting of cabinet members yesterday.

As a result, the Liberal Democrat administration has announced targets of making Winchester City Council carbon neutral by 2024 and achieving the same with the wider district by 2030.

The levels of harmful emissions in the city currently exceed national standards, although the council’s carbon footprint has reduced by 31 per cent in the last decade, while the district’s footprint has reduced by 26 per cent since 2005.

The decision follows a declaration by the Government last month, and means the city council is among more than 70 authorities across the country to make the move.

It also comes just months after the city and county council approved the City of Winchester Movement Strategy, which sets out an “agreed vision and long-term priorities” for transport improvements in the city over the next 20 to 30 years.

These include increasing capacity for park and ride services; giving buses priority over cars in several areas; consolidating parking in larger out-of-city-centre car parks; enhancing cycling and pedestrian routes; and changing parts of the one-way system.

The movement strategy was development and approved under the previous Conservative administration.

Following yesterdays decision, council leader Cllr Lucille Thompson said: “The science is clear that climate change is real and it is something that we all have a responsibility in tackling.

“This is an issue that affects everyone and time is running out to avert a global catastrophe.

“That’s why we are setting ambitious targets to make the council and wider district carbon neutral.

“By doing this we will also be speaking to partners and agencies in the district, and also lobbying government to provide additional powers and resources to help us.”

Among the members of the public at the cabinet meeting yesterday were members of the Winchester branch of the international activist group Extinction Rebellion.

A spokesman said: “Winchester City Council’s declaration of a climate emergency is an important first step in accepting the scale and severity of the challenge before us.

“It is imperative the council now makes a comprehensive assessment of its greenhouse gas emissions and identifies ambitious, measurable, science-based reduction targets for the next year, two years, five years and ten years, particularly in terms of transport, green energy and housing insulation where even low-cost measures can result in large emission reductions.

“Extinction Rebellion is here to collaborate on policy, support the Council and witness the declaration. We are also present to ensure immediate action is taken and measurable targets are set and achieved.

“We call for the council to create a Citizens’ Assembly, revitalising and re-energising the democratic conversation.”

As previously reported, climate change protests have been taking place in the city in recent months.