The Council declared a Climate Emergency on 15 January 2020 and set an objective to achieve carbon neutrality by 2030. A carbon audit has been undertaken by consultants to analyse the Council’s carbon emissions and propose a strategy to achieve this objective. This strategy will help steer the Council in the direction to achieve Carbon Neutrality by 2030.
The Climate Change & Sustainability Manager presented a report which reminded Members that back in January 2020, the Council had declared a Climate Emergency and in response to this had set an objective to achieve carbon neutrality by 2030. In progressing this work, a carbon audit had been undertaken by consultants, CO2 Analysis, to analyse the Council’s carbon emissions and so that a Strategy could be proposed to achieve the Council’s objectives and to steer the Council in the direction to achieve carbon neutrality by 2030. The work undertaken had included a detailed assessment of the Council’s Scope 1 (emissions directly attributed to burning of fuels), Scope 2 (indirect emissions from the generation of purchased electricity and directly controlled by the Council) and Scope 3 emissions (from the activities of the Council but occurring from sources not owned or controlled by the Council) as well as audits of the Council’s corporate buildings and housing stock to calculate the Council’s carbon footprint.
It was explained that no emissions generated from the Housing portfolio had been included within the audit undertaken. Over the coming months more detailed analysis would be undertaken to inform the Council’s strategic approach and to provide a roadmap on how such targets would be achieved.
A detailed action plan was in the process of being developed which would showcase what the Council needed to and when and it was confirmed that this would be brought to the Committee in February 2022 for approval.
The Chair also welcomed consultants from CO2 Analysis who had joined the meeting virtually to respond to questions raised by the Committee.
A summary of the debate is set out below:
· Much praise was given for the report which had been well presented and easy to understand, whilst providing a confident and realistic first step
What the Council could do to actively influence partners to be more ambitious in their carbon net zero targets, especially when most of the Council’s emissions were through its partners in the supply chain. Members were reassured that the Council was in a good place with its work as it was pushing hard to address emissions in Scope 3, many other local authorities were only addressing Scope 1 and 2.
· Whether the £200,000 figure in Recommendation (b) was sufficient? It was explained that this figure would allow the Council to bring in the specialist advice that it needed. The Action Plan would then identify any further funding required. Recommendation (b) provided a healthy starting point.
· How could the Council influence the partners that it worked with i.e. Freedom Leisure who had a net zero carbon target of 2050 rather than 2030? Councillors were reassured that with Freedom Leisure they were very keen to reduce their carbon footprint as this made good business sense. The Council would work with them, and other buildings to improve the fabric and the technology to heat these buildings. In terms of encouraging the rest of the Council’s supply chain, the Council would work through Procurement Policies, to ensure that carbon emissions were being addressed.
· The employee commute was of interest, especially now that employees were returning to the office following the pandemic and having worked from home. The idea of introducing more imaginative recruitment packages was mentioned to help reduce the Council’s carbon footprint, for example lower levels of salary for remote workers to avoid commuting whilst providing opportunities to enhance the work life balance. The Director of Services confirmed that a number of staff employed during the pandemic had been recruited using this type of model.
· The ambition to be net zero by 2050 - should be brought forward by 5-10 years as a target to inject a certain urgency, and as the Council was delivering on its 2030 target earlier than asked to do. In response, the Director of Services confirmed that this related to the social housing stock which would be tackled using a two stage approach. The first stage would involve increasing the energy efficiency of all social housing using a fabric first approach and ensuring that appropriate heating systems were installed. It was likely thar there would be funding available for this provided by the Government . The second stage would be looking to undertake further upgrades to properties to meet Net Zero carbon standards. The Council was in the early stages of this work having completed a piece of work addressing what needed to be done with social housing and was looking at an application to the Government’s Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund. This would allow the Council to assess what it could realistically achieve and when. Further updates would be provided to the Committee.
· Why was there an emphasis to reduce single-use plastic, this was not understood? It was explained that large emissions were generated from producing them and then again in discarding them causing pollution to wildlife and habitats.
· Would the Strategy be circulated to all staff and Members so that they were aware of the work being undertaken and as it covered all departments and services? Reassurance was provided that this would take place to ensure all areas of the Council understood what needed to be done.
· Staff training to meet these targets was crucial, and feedback had been received from meetings already held. The consultants confirmed that they had undertaken work with the Council’s Carbon Champions which had resulted in many ideas being discussed about how the Council could change processes to achieve targets.
· The need to begin more outward-facing work in the District as soon as possible
Councillor Roberts then proposed the recommendations, which were seconded by Councillor Cooper.
(1) The Carbon Reduction Strategy be adopted;
(2) The inclusion of £200,000 in the 2022/23 budget to support carbon reduction projects be endorsed;
(3) Support be given to the Climate Change and Sustainability Manager to develop a plan to deliver the Carbon Reduction Strategy with appropriate targets to achieve carbon neutrality by 2030;
(4) The Corporate Support Committee be requested to review the Council’s Procurement Policy to ensure that carbon reduction is given appropriate consideration in the purchasing of all goods and services;
(5) The Interim Group Head for Corporate Support be requested to review the Council’s investment portfolio to determine the cost benefits of environmentally friendly funds;
(6) The commissioning of specialist consultants to undertake detailed audits of the Council’s estate be supported and prepare a programme of energy efficiency improvement projects; and
(7) the strategic approach to the Council’s housing stock be endorsed by improving the energy performance of the buildings by 2030 and achieving Net Zero for the portfolio by 2050.