The man in charge of environmental policy in Gloucestershire could not confirm whether he believes climate change is man-made yesterday.

Conservative councillor Nigel Moor, a cabinet member who has been given fresh focus on climate change, was quizzed by opposition councillors over his stance on the subject in a meeting.

Mr Moor said the cause of some extreme weather Britain has experienced over the last 10 years is “an open question”.

Defending him in the wake of opposition criticism, Conservative councillor Rob Bird said: “The climate has been changing forever.”

Mr Moor was first asked by Liberal Democrat councillor Joe Harris: “Do you believe in climate change? Do you believe it is happening?”

He replied: “Everything we do, we should look to reduce carbon emissions and everything we do to improve sustainability. Whether that amounts to a belief in climate change, I’ll leave that to you.”

Liberal Democrat leader Paul Hodgkinson later returned the question, asking Mr Moor: “Do you believe climate change exists? And whether it is as a result of man-made activity? It just needs a yes or no answer.”

Mr Moor said: “Why should I answer yes or no? I gave you my answer which is I believe in the need to reduce carbon emissions, I believe in the need to have a more sustainable environment.

“Whether the extreme weather conditions we have experienced in the last 10 years amounts to climate change, that is still an open question. But what is not an open question is a need to address those specific issues that I’ve identified.”

Mr Moor, who represents Stow-on-the-Wold, was made the cabinet member for environment and planning today, formerly in charge of fire, planning and infrastructure. His new portfolio has a greater focus on tackling climate change issues and he has handed over responsibility overseeing Gloucestershire’s fire service.

Mr Moor later told us he refused to confirm his position because he did not want to be drawn into a lengthy debate.

“Prior to the questioning I had already explained our approach to reducing emissions and the need to improve sustainability across the county,” he said, pointing to his efforts on installing electric car charging points in Gloucestershire and setting up a group on air quality. 

“There is no doubt that weather conditions are changing but that has probably always been the case.

“The task for the county council is to improve our resilience in the face of these changes and to ensure that we reduce our impact.

“I am not a climate change denier but prefer to adopt the precautionary principle to climate change because I think that resonates with most of our community.”

The row occurred at an extraordinary council meeting, partly initiated by Greens who had called for a dedicated councillor to tackle the effects of climate change for Gloucestershire.

Green leader Rachel Smith, who represents Minchinhampton, said: “If you don’t believe in gravity the apple will still fall on your head.

“I’m glad to hear, whether there’s a bit of confusion in the cabinet about what climate change is or its cause, that there is the precautionary principle that is leading to a decrease in our carbon emissions.”