Environmental guru Jonathon Porritt has been called in to help Birmingham deliver on the green agenda.
The Old Etonian friend of Prince Charles was asked to become a “critical friend” by deputy city council leader Paul Tilsley.
Mr Porritt, who founded the Forum for the Future and is chairman of the Sustainable Development Commission, is regarded as one of the country’s leading campaigners on fighting the effects of climate change.
He is not charging the council for his advice and has met senior officials and councillors several times to discuss ways in which the city can achieve its target to reduce carbon emissions by 60 per cent by 2026.
His involvement follows concerns by a number of councillors and environmental organisations that the council is not delivering on green issues quickly enough. A climate change strategy, which was supposed to be published last year, is now expected to go to the cabinet in October.
Coun Tilsley (Lib Dem, Sheldon) defended the city’s efforts to promote sustainability, adding that Mr Porritt was proving to be a “hard taskmaster”.
He said: “Jonathon has set us a number of challenging targets and there have been a few stern words.”
Coun Tilsley said the gradual spread across the city of combined heat and power units, a more efficient way of generating electricity, was already contributing to Birmingham’s overall CO2 reduction target. CHP units are in place in Broad Street, serving the ICC and Brindleyplace, and at Aston University and Eastside.Over the next few years, 70 city schools will have CHP.
Sandy Taylor, head of climate change and sustainability at the council, said the city had been praised by the Government for reducing CO2 emissions by 103,000 tonnes against a target of 100,000 tonnes. Plans to offer experimental electric cars to the public had also impressed ministers.
Mr Taylor added: “We do need to be challenged in terms of whether we are moving fast enough and whether we are engaging with the right partners. Having someone of Jonathon Porritt’s stature on board is very positive.”
The council’s deputy Labour group leader, Ian Ward, remains sceptical about progress.
Coun Ward (Lab, Shard End) said that neither a promised annual sustainability report nor a carbon management plan had materialised.