Agenda item

Carbon Reduction Target and Green Team Update

To consider the Council’s Climate Change Policy Action Plan and related matters.

Minutes:

Summary

 

The Climate Emergency and Localism Portfolio Holder, together with the Strategy Specialist (Sustainability) introduced the report and displayed a presentation on the screen highlighting that climate change was an existential threat to our way of life.  Action was needed to tackle climate change at international, national and local level to help to reduce the negative impacts of climate change on our communities and communities around the world.

 

The Council had declared a Climate Emergency in February 2019 and had adopted a Climate Change Policy which committed the Council to play its part in meeting emissions targets set internationally and through UK Carbon budgets.  Adoption of the carbon reduction targets recommended in this report would ensure that South Lakeland would make its contribution to addressing the International Panel on Climate Change (2018) recommendations to limit global warming to 1.5°C.  In showing a lead on this important issue, the Council hoped to influence other local authorities, Government and other stakeholders to play their part.

 

Cabinet had already agreed to recommend to Council the proposal to adopt carbon reduction targets for South Lakeland District Council as an organisation and to support a Cumbria wide target which had been recommended by an expert report as necessary to meet international targets, as follows:-

 

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

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

 

These had now been inserted into the Policy attached as Appendix 4 to the report and had been considered by the Overview and Scrutiny Committee on 22 June 2020 and were due to be considered by Council on 30 June 2020.

 

The COVID-19 emergency had provided experience of working across sectors, across organisations and across boundaries to address a serious, complex threat to our lives and our local economy.  The opportunity existed to capture that learning and to apply it to the greater but longer term threat of climate change.

 

Cabinet Members were being asked to note the progress on the Climate Change Action Plan and the approval of the establishment of a Climate Change Community Fund.  The proposal in this regard was that the Council would provide a community grant of an initial £20,000.  The funding had to be spent to benefit the local community on addressing the climate emergency.  The fund would support up to 50% of costs (up to a maximum of £5000) for voluntary and community groups who wished to deliver community based carbon reduction projects.  The full funding criteria were attached at Appendix 2 to the report, with the application form at Appendix 3.  The fund would be funded from existing climate change resources.

 

In being asked to note the progress on the Action Plan, Members were being asked to take on board the comments raised by the Overview and Scrutiny Committee on 22 June 2020, action on which, where necessary, was being taken by the Climate Emergency and Localism Portfolio Holder and details of which were displayed on the screen, as follows:-

 

Comment

Climate Emergency and Localism Portfolio Holder/Officer Action/Response

That the targets set in the Action Plan and the funding relationship needs to be explained and explored further - in particular pages 77, 88 and 89.  Is the lack of funding/resources driving the setting of longer term targets.  What is the impact of this on the health and wellbeing of our communities.  Should more resources be allocated?

We will be issuing a new draft document which will remove the definitions of short term, medium term and long term targets.  To avoid any confusion.

The relationship to Development Control/Planning Committee and Strategic Planning Policy needs to be aligned.  How will the Action Plan influence and inform the Local Plan process?  How do we ensure the two work streams are aligned and inform each other?

This is considered to be a very valid comment and we will work to ensure that the emerging Local Plan has the required policies to reflect our ambitions.  Of course in the context of balancing other competing priorities.

Can we deliver the targets set, 2030 and 2037?

Yes we are seeking to achieve the 2030 targets and will take the necessary steps within our powers and resources to achieve this.

What is the Governance around the Cumbria wide target?

The Cumbria Wide Working Group is part of this Governance.  Under the direction of the Director of Public Health at the County Council.

Is the community really embracing the Climate Change agenda?

We have seen more support during the Covid crisis and we do believe the community is embracing the challenges.

The glossary requires updating.

This has been updated.

Air Quality requires reference, Clean Air Day and School Safety Zones.

Reference to Air Quality now inserted in the draft document.

Can we look at other funding sources/models and options, e.g. grant funding, credit unions – other alternatives need to be explored.

This will be part of the work programme.

How are we influencing the County Council to increase the use of bicycles?

Through existing networks and partnerships.

Street lighting – how are we addressing this and more energy efficiency?  Referenced impact on biodiversity.

We agree that this is an area that could be improved and we encourage joint working and collaboration with all partners.

How do we ensure that the costs to the community in working with us to achieve this Action Plan and the targets are proportionate, e.g. heat pumps and solar panels?

We need to engage with our partners and businesses and await further resources from central government to achieve a UK target of 2050.  Markets need to be further developed to drive costs down.

 

In closing, the Climate Emergency and Localism Portfolio Holder thanked the Strategy Specialist (Sustainability) and officers for their work.

 

The Legal, Governance and Democracy Lead Specialist (Monitoring Officer) further referred to the comments raised at the meeting of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee held on 22 June 2020, and informed Cabinet that Members had further requested that Cabinet consider increasing the proposed grant for the Climate Change Community Fund referred to at recommendation 2 and in paragraph 3.10 of the report (and not 3.8.2 as stated at recommendation 2).

 

A lengthy discussion ensued during which Members expressed strong support for the proposals.  Also raised were the potential for hydro power making use of becks and streams within the area, the need for Members to be well briefed and informed in order to spread the message and become more involved in setting the agenda within their towns and parishes, and the need to build on consciousness of the environment and the way of life adopted by people during the COVID-19 lockdown.  This was seen as a fantastic opportunity for cross party working.  The Health, Wellbeing and Financial Resilience Portfolio Holder highlighted the importance of the link to the Cumbria Public Health Strategy.

 

The Leader and Promoting South Lakeland Portfolio thanked officers, thanked Members for the cross party support and thanked the Overview and Scrutiny Committee for its input.  He stressed the need to address Climate Change and the need for the Council to provide leadership.  He firmly believed that the Climate Change Action Plan, although ambitious, was achievable.  He took on board the comments regarding the need for Members to be provided with more information.  He further informed Members that, following the comments raised by the Overview and Scrutiny Committee, the size of the Climate Change Community Fund was under review.

 

The Climate Emergency and Localism Portfolio Holder added that she and the Strategy Specialist (Sustainability) were organising a briefing session for all Members of the Council during July.

 

A vote was taken on the proposals, including acceptance of the comments raised by the Overview and Scrutiny Committee on 22 June 2020, during which, with the exception of the Deputy Leader and Housing and Innovation Portfolio Holder who abstained, Cabinet Members confirmed that they had, without interruption, heard the full presentation and discussion on the item.

 

The Action Plan would be updated to address comments raised by the Overview and Scrutiny Committee and Cabinet and re-circulated to all Members prior to the Council meeting on 30 June 2020.

 

Decision

 

RESOLVED – That

 

(1)        the comments raised by the Overview and Scrutiny Committee on 22 June 2020 be noted and taken on board as necessary;

 

(2)        the progress on the updated Climate Change Action Plan be noted and it be approved for submission to Council; and

 

(3)        the establishment of the Climate Change Community Fund set out in Paragraph 3.10 of the report.

 

Reasons for Decision

 

The Council Plan adopted in December 2019 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.

Supporting documents: