Council proposes unprecedented environmental plans in response to climate emergency

Published

Published 8 July 2020

In response to its declaration of a climate emergency, Suffolk County Council aims to lead the way with an unparalleled range of activities and policy changes to support its ambition of being a ‘net zero’ authority by 2030.

At its meeting on 14 July 2020, the council’s Cabinet will review an extensive programme of recommendations which will support the organisation’s ambition of emitting as few carbon emissions as possible.

The plans include dozens of changes and new ways of working, from making its pool car fleet all-electric, to making it mandatory for all future committee decisions to consider the net zero impact.

Being ‘net zero’ means that the council will remove its carbon emissions where it can – if it is unable to do so, it will compensate for those emissions. It proposes to adopt a more detailed method to measure its carbon emissions output, so that it can more accurately track its progress on an annual basis.

Councillor Richard Rout, Cabinet Member for Environment & Public Protection at Suffolk County Council, said:

“If approved, this will be an unprecedented moment in the council’s history, as we will bring in changes which will have a positive impact on our environment and leave a legacy for future generations of Suffolk.

“Suffolk County Council has been involved with successful climate change projects for many years, including the Suffolk Climate Change Partnership. We have put millions of pounds into energy efficiency projects for both businesses and homes, and continue to do so.

“Suffolk has been moving in the right direction having seen carbon emission reductions of 41% since 1990. But now is the time to move up through the gears and do even better. The recommendations which are being put forward will help us towards our 2030 target.

“The impact of climate change is an issue which involves everyone and affects everyone. With the approval of these plans, the council will lead by example. We will inspire other businesses to see what can be achieved, to show that change can, and must, happen.”

In March 2019, Suffolk County Council was the first authority in the county to declare a climate emergency.

One of the council’s priorities after this declaration was to set up a policy development panel (PDP). The panel has met regularly, discussing the changes and challenges the council faces in reducing its carbon emissions. It includes members from outside the Conservative group and has invited experts to share their experiences and insights. It is this panel that has compiled the recommendations.

Amongst the recommendations, Suffolk County Council will continue its work with all other local authorities and agencies, under the Suffolk Climate Change Partnership umbrella, which was formed in 2007. With all local authorities having now declared a climate emergency, they will use their combined powers, duties, influence and leadership, continuing their work together to achieve the net zero ambition for emissions from all of Suffolk.

Full details of the recommendations can be found in the Climate Emergency Policy Development Panel report (LINK)


The Cabinet is asked to agree to the following recommendations at Suffolk County Council:

Buildings and utilities

a) Move to the purchase of 100% renewable electricity for all services under Council control at the earliest opportunity.

b) Implement the SCC Energy Management Strategy (see Annex 1– PDP report, Appendix C) for existing buildings, including maintained schools:

  • New governance structure with political oversight to oversee delivery of projects.
  • Focus on the switch away from oil, LPG and natural gas use by 2030.
  • Ongoing delivery of “invest to save” energy efficiency projects to reduce overall emissions and reduce running costs.
  • Maximise remaining onsite renewable generation opportunities.

c) Ensure all newly constructed council-controlled buildings, extensions and retrofits (including housing/commercial development on the Council estate) are designed to achieve net zero emissions by 2030, in addition to complying with the existing BREEAM Policy – 2021 onwards.

d) Provide advice for academies/free schools to develop and deliver their own net zero emissions plans, which would include pupil involvement – 2021 onwards.

Transport

a) Implement a replacement programme for all pool/hire vehicles to only use fully electric vehicles by 2024, alongside the ongoing rollout of charging infrastructure at SCC buildings for staff and service vehicles.

b) Implement replacement of all fossil fuelled small fleet/service vehicles to fully electric versions by 2025.

c) Pilot the use of non-fossil fuelled vehicles for passenger transport and HGVs, with the objective of moving away from fossil fuels by 2030.

Farm estate

a) Continue to develop and implement an investment programme to maximise renewable energy generation on the SCC estate, investigate the feasibility of supplying our own energy needs by 2030.

b) Investigate and assess the opportunity for the farm estate to be managed to store carbon (e.g. land management practice and tree planting) to offset Council emissions – assessment during 2021.

c) Investigate and assess the opportunity to prioritise new tenants with a net zero emission approach to land management – assessment during 2021.

Waste

a) With the delivery of the national Resource and Waste Strategy, consider opportunities to further reduce waste related emissions, support a circular economy, and reduce plastic pollution.

Procurement

a) Update procurement guidance and standard contractual terms by end of 2021 to include climate change impacts, and mandatory carbon reporting, with the aim of delivering net zero emissions in procurement by 2030.

b) Develop and deliver training for commissioners and suppliers on climate change, carbon footprinting, carbon reduction, and the important role of procurement supporting change – 2020 onwards.

c) Develop a recording and monitoring process to identify embedded emissions within the procurement of goods and services - 2022 onwards.

Corporate strategy/policy

a) Annual publication and approval of a carbon budget (footprint and reduction plan) alongside the financial budget to monitor progress against a net zero target – 2021/22 budget onwards.

b) Development of all new Council strategy and policy will identify contributions to both the organisational and wider Suffolk emissions targets, so that these can be considered as part of the relevant approval process for each new strategy and policy.

c) All future committee decisions to consider and evaluate the impact on the net zero emissions target to help inform decision making. A specific section for each report to be developed to consider the impact in a consistent manner – 2021 onwards.

d) Require the Council’s wholly owned companies to set a net zero emissions target in line with the Council’s and to monitor their progress on an annual basis - 2022 onwards.

Supporting staff and councillors

a) Develop training courses and workshops, open to all staff and councillors, on climate change mitigation and other key environmental policies - for delivery in 2021.

b) Develop new home working and travel for work guidance by the end of 2021, learning from the COVID-19 lockdown, that aims to dramatically reduce the requirement to commute to offices and travel for meetings and visits.

Suffolk-wide emissions

a) By the end of 2020, develop and publish a collaborative action plan with all Suffolk’s local authorities that seeks to use our combined powers, duties, influence and leadership to work with others towards the net zero ambition for emissions from all of Suffolk.

b) Lobby partners and government to champion a net zero approach in their plans and policies that impact on Suffolk’s emissions.