Decision details

Carbon Reduction Target and Green Team Update

Decision Maker: Cabinet

Decision status: For Determination

Is Key decision?: Yes

Is subject to call in?: No


The Council declared a Climate Emergency in February 2019 and adopted a Climate Change Policy. This report updates members on work being carried out at County Level to advise on targets, seeks the adoption of carbon reduction targets for SLDC as an organisation and for Cumbria as a whole and updates members on the more immediate carbon reduction work through the Climate Change Action Plan being undertaken by the Green Team.




The Climate Emergency and Localism Portfolio Holder referred to South Lakeland District Council having declared a Climate Emergency in February 2019.  At the same time, it had adopted a Climate Change Policy setting out a strategic approach to reducing the Carbon footprint both of the District Council and of the District as a whole.  An Action Plan had been prepared containing a series of measures to guide implementation of the Policy.  At the same time, three series of climate conversations had been held and the feedback from these had fed into various iterations of the Action Plan.


The Council Plan adopted in December 2019 set a strategic priority of meeting the challenge of Climate Change as well as a number of actions, details of which were included in the report and outlined under “Reasons for Decision” below.


In March 2019, the Council, along with all other Cumbrian authorities and the National Parks, had adopted the Cumbria Public Health Strategy.  That Strategy included a key aim of becoming a “carbon neutral” county and to mitigate the likely impact of existing climate change.


In response to the above, the Director of Public Health had convened a Climate Change Working Group on which were represented all Cumbrian Local Authorities and National Park Authorities, representatives of the business community, environmental groups and statutory undertakers.  That group had been tasked with identifying a deliverable carbon reduction target for the County and priority actions for delivery.


The Climate Change working group had commissioned a study to identify the County’s current carbon footprint and recommend appropriate targets. This report was still being finalised.  Early indications were, however, that, if a consumption based approach was adopted, which looked not just at emissions from energy consumption but also at embedded emissions in goods purchased and food consumed by residents and visitors, a 2030 target was unachievable for the County as a whole.  A 2037 target was ambitious but achievable and targets of 2040 and 2045 would be more achievable, but harder to justify in terms of meeting national targets and addressing the issue with sufficient urgency.


Meeting the 2037 target would require major technological change, behavioural change, land-use change and resource for delivery, much of which would be outside the direct influence of South Lakeland District Council.  Meeting the target would require very substantial reductions in the use of gas, oil and solid fuel heating, electricity to be substantially decarbonised, substantial increases in carbon absorption through land management, major improvements to energy efficiency in buildings, and the phasing out of petrol and diesel vehicles.


In setting a carbon target, there were issues which needed to be scoped out.  South Lakeland and Cumbria could have little influence on emissions from through traffic on the M6.  Similarly, the footprint of international air travel for visitors to Cumbria was difficult to attribute or quantify directly.


The engagement of local and national partners would  be critical.  Much remained to be done to understand the full implications of meeting the target and to influence Government and other partners to play their part in making sure it was achieved.  Nonetheless, a clear stance by South Lakeland District Council would help to add impetus and influence other partners.  On balance, it was felt that the adoption of a 2037 target struck the right balance between making a real impact on the problem, being deliverable and driving the necessary immediate action.


At the same time as this strategic work had been undertaken, SLDC had developed an Action Plan looking at the measures it could implement directly to address its own carbon footprint and to influence others in the short to medium term.  The full Action Plan was attached as Appendix 1 to the report.  From what had already been achieved, it was felt that South Lakeland District Council as an organisation could achieve production based carbon neutrality by 2030.


The Leader read out a submission from the Climate Emergency and Localism Portfolio Holder who stated that we were living in extraordinary times and it was becoming increasingly clear that the time for ‘business as usual’ was over. This Council recognised this urgency.  She pointed out that the way in which climate was changing was serious and unprecedented.  The Council understood the measures required and challenges faced in mitigating this change.  Doing a little was not enough and the Climate Emergency and Localism Portfolio Holder said that, quite simply, we owed it to our children, grandchildren and our great grand children to do what we could.  The vision for Cumbria - a clean, green, carbon neutral Cumbria, was something good, an ambition to be endorsed, and it was now necessary for all to work together boldly to achieve as much as possible within this next decade, in ways not done before.  Making the right steps now and engaging with the right partners would make a difference.  This was why, as described in 3.3 of the report, the Council had been working collaboratively to identify a deliverable carbon reduction target for Cumbria.  She said that this Council had a proven record of working with others in a positive, proactive manner.  This was why it had commissioned, along with County and Districts, the Carbon Baseline for Cumbria Draft Report, and this report now recommended that Cumbria could become carbon neutral by 2037.  There was no disputing the seriousness of this target and getting there was going to take some willpower and stamina.  It meant radical changes in behaviour.  The Climate Emergency and Localism Portfolio Holder said that, as a district Council, we looked to 2030 as a target for areas under our control.  This was a call to action - both for us, our officers, and the communities we served and live in.  However, she was sure all would agree with him that ‘thinking globally, acting locally’, had to be at the centre of everything the Council did - its plans and policies.  The Climate Emergency and Localism Portfolio Holder wanted this Council to lead the way, to do all it could to inform, influence, and implement ideas and actions, schemes and strategies, plans and ambitions, working alongside businesses and communities in South Lakeland.  She highlighted the recommendations contained within the report which spoke plainly about our ambitions here at South Lakeland and more broadly working with County and encouraged Members to approve them.


The Housing and Innovation Portfolio Holder agreed with the sentiments of the Climate Emergency and Localism Portfolio Holder.  He fully endorsed the comments made and the need for an aggressive target.






(1)        Council be recommended to amend its Climate Change Policy to:-


(a)        commit the Council as an organisation to be seeking to achieve net carbon neutrality by 2030; and


(b)       support a Cumbria wide target of Carbon Neutrality by 2037 and to take the necessary steps within its powers and resources to achieve this; and


(2)        progress on the Climate Change Action Plan be noted.


Reasons for Decision


To assist in the delivery of the Council Plan adopted in December 2019 which sets a strategic priority of meeting the challenge of Climate Change as well as the following actions:-


           working with partners to develop energy saving and energy efficiency initiatives;

           providing energy advice and additional support to households at risk of fuel poverty;

           implementing the Cumbria Public Health Strategy;

           promoting environmental technologies and the green economy;

           working to achieve a carbon neutral South Lakeland;

           promoting sustainable and active transport including cycling and walking;

           conserving and enhancing the biodiversity of the District; and

           phasing out the use of single-use plastics.


Alternative Options Considered and Rejected


The Council could choose not to adopt a climate change target, or to adopt a later date to achieve carbon neutrality by 2040 or 2045.


Clearly there is a global risk in failing to address the challenges of Climate Change in increased severe weather events and flooding, increased refugee flows, competition for water resources, impacts on food production and many others.  The actions South Lakeland takes must be seen in the context of global solutions to a global problem.  However the global issue will only be addressed if local communities, local authorities, County and sub-regional bodies and national Governments take ownership of it.  South Lakeland’s actions, whilst they may have limited impacts in themselves, help to build resolve and influence others.  Non-adoption of a target or adoption of later targets would reduce the impetus for action locally.

Report author: Hannah Girvan

Publication date: 20/03/2020

Date of decision: 18/03/2020

Decided at meeting: 18/03/2020 - Cabinet

Accompanying Documents: