Council leader announces bold plans for meeting climate emergency targets
Ensuring the council meets its ambitious net zero plans after having cut its net carbon emissions by two thirds already, Cllr Bound has pledged to mitigate all outstanding emissions back to the date of the declaration in 2019. He is also committing to investigate whether the council can take this further by finding a specialist partner to set up much-needed local offsetting schemes.
And Cllr Bound is also planning to up the budget for climate action for the coming year. This extra funding could see an electric charging car club set up to give people easier access to green transport without the need to own a car and a new green team taking to the streets of the borough to give residents and businesses practical help to cut their emissions.
Cllr Bound said: “Since our emergency declaration in September 2019 we have reduced the council’s net carbon emissions by 66% and we continue to work hard to achieve our 2025 target. In the fight against climate change our first step must always be towards changing our actions. We can do this by consuming less, consuming better, and reducing our carbon footprint.
“However, nobody’s perfect. And to become carbon neutral or, better yet, climate positive we need to acknowledge that there is a place for mitigating the carbon emissions we have and will emit before reaching our 2025 council operational emissions target.
“After the anniversary of our Climate Emergency declaration and on the eve of Green Week, it is a good time to consider what we can do towards carbon removal of those emissions emitted since our declaration. I have agreed to take mitigating action to balance our known carbon emissions since the emergency was declared by offsetting these emissions. It is our view that not taking any action for this known damage in the emergency would be negligent.
“Offsetting schemes have received well-publicised criticism and we have invested time to ensure that we work with accredited schemes that make a real difference.
“As good quality schemes are in short supply, we will also investigate whether we can find a key partner to set up local schemes for us to invest in that would also support local businesses wanting to mitigate their carbon emissions in the future.”
Along with plans to make the council carbon neutral years ahead of its 2025 target, the Leader has also announced an intended raft of measures to build on actions already under way by the council and communities to realise a net zero carbon borough by 2030.
Cllr Simon Bound added: “As well as taking these steps to reduce and account for our emissions, we’re aware that reaching our target of a net zero carbon borough is an even bigger challenge. This will require action by us all but we’re endeavouring to lead by example as we enable and inspire action from residents, communities and businesses.
“As part of this, and aiming to build on ongoing work by us and others across the borough to encourage behaviour change, we intend to establish a new green team. Providing support and advice on topics such as energy saving, the natural environment, waste reduction and transport, the team will help communities and businesses to better understand how they can make a real difference.
“And with transport accounting for almost half the borough’s emissions, we will also be taking focused steps in this area towards creating an electric car club in the borough. This will give residents the chance to try out electric cars as clean and green ways of getting around as well as supporting those who do not need or want to own a car.
“Our plans are good evidence of our continued commitment in this emergency but, to successfully fight climate change, it is vital that we all, including central government, work together and take responsibility for our own emissions. I am keen to hear from every individual, group and organisation how they are playing their part in this fight.”
Further information about these plans will be presented at the Community, Environment and Partnerships Committee in November. Following this, communities and councillors will have the opportunity to feed back on these proposals during the public consultation on the council budget for 2023/24.
The two-thirds reduction in the council’s net emissions since the declaration has been achieved through key actions including:
ensuring the council, and key service providers, buy renewable energy to supply its own properties, resulting in around 500 tonnes of carbon saved per year
making improvements in property, for example, LED lighting projects resulting in around 25 tonnes of carbon saved per year, as well as office consolidation to use its buildings more efficiently, given increased flexible working arrangements
reducing emissions from its fleet, including new electric vehicles for its Parking and Community Safety Patrol Officers, saving nearly 10 tonnes of carbon per year, as well as trialling waste food oil for those vehicles where electric alternatives are less readily available, or as a transition fuel until replacements are required. This fuel is expected to save towards 90 tonnes of carbon for the council’s mower fleet, with greater reductions if the rolled out more widely following the trial
changing staff behaviours leading to reduced business mileage and a reduction of 7 tonnes of carbon, including the impact of COVID and working from home.
And, on the journey to carbon neutrality, the council is continuing to prioritise actions to further reduce its emissions including:
considering how it can improve carbon absorbed by council green spaces, as well as tackling the Ecological Emergency
undertaking studies and audits of its properties to scope out changes required to improve energy efficiency and further reduce emissions
working with key contractors to reduce emissions in the delivery of services
developing staff travel proposals to further encourage sustainable travel for council staff.