Torbay may have to delay its aim to become carbon neutral in response to the climate emergency by a generation.
The council set a target of 2030 when it formally declared a climate emergency in June 2019.
But more than a year later, councillors were told that may have to be revised to 2050.
That is the carbon neutral deadline for the Devon Climate Response Group which the council has joined.
They were told that the council might be able to meet the 2030 carbon neutral target, but it was less likely for the area as a whole.
Questions were also asked about why only £5,000 of the £25,000 set aside by the council to fund its climate change programme had been spent.
The climate emergency declaration was made a month after the local elections when a partnership of Liberal Democrats and Independents took control of the council.
The Conservative opposition group opposed the £25,000 fund for a study and action plan, arguing the council had other priorities.
A meeting of the council’s overview and scrutiny board on Wednesday heard £5,000 had been spent on studies to gather evidence.
Councillors were told a climate emergency officer had just been appointed, which would help plans progress.
Nick Bye, a Conservative councillor and former elected mayor of Torbay, said he was disappointed that only a small amount had been spent, and criticised what he described as “gesture politics”.
“We have got to get serious about this,” he told the meeting. “It just seems like talking and plans, and very little action so far.”
Liberal Democrat Cabinet member Swithin Long said it was better to spend on evidence rather than on rushed measures that might not work.
Council leader Steve Darling said he was confused by the Conservatives who had not supported the climate change fund, but were now questioning why it had not all been used.
Board chair Lee Howgate said the money was set aside to support creating a strategy, not to pay for measures to tackle climate change.
The board asked for an update by the end of the year on progress with the council’s climate change strategy.
The county-wide Climate Emergency Response Group, made up of public, private and voluntary organisations, is producing an Interim Devon Carbon Plan which is expected to go out for consultation in December.