Greenhouse gas emissions emitted by Carmarthenshire Council in four areas have fallen by more than a third, a cabinet member has said.

But Cllr Aled Vaughan Owen warned that more funding was needed to help the authority reach its goal of becoming “net zero” by 2030.

He said councillors themselves had a key role in the net zero transition and that fewer than half of them had taken up an offer of “carbon literacy” training. Net zero means slashing carbon emissions and offsetting the rest.

Cllr Vaughan Owen, cabinet member for climate change, decarbonisation and sustainability, was responding to a question by Cllr John James at a meeting of full council about how the authority was meeting its net zero goals given both the financial pressures it faced and research showing that two-thirds of councils in England were not confident of meeting their net zero objectives.

Cllr Vaughan Owen said he was mindful of the financial situation but also of the “important role” councils could play. He said emissions linked to the use of the authority’s non-domestic buildings, street lights, vehicle fleet and business mileage had decreased by 36% since the “baseline” year prior to Covid. He said 40 additional electric vehicles had been acquired and that there was a policy presumption that all future fleet vehicles would be battery-powered.

Referring to the 36% drop, the Plaid Cymru councillor said: “I think we can agree that’s quite a significant reduction, but we are not slowing down.” He said policies focused on climate change and nature were no longer just “nice to haves or fringe benefits” but “the way we do business”.

However, Cllr Vaughan Owen said the council did not have “all the levers” to achieve net zero and that central Governments had “to close the gap between rhetoric and reality” by rolling out “appropriate funding mechanisms”. He cited a recent High Court ruling which said a net zero plan drafted by the UK Government lacked evidence that it could be achieved.

Cllr James went on to ask what the council was doing to engage residents in the net zero process. Cllr Vaughan Owen said members of the public had helped shape a council energy plan and that the authority had spent £5.7 million over the past year on climate, nature and “circular economy” – meaning waste reduction – measures.

He added that councillors themselves could lead by example. “However, less than half of us have taken up the opportunity to improve our carbon literacy through the training offer,” he said.