To consider updates to the South Lakeland District Council Climate Change Policy and progress on the Climate Change Action Plan.
Councillor Dyan Jones, 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.
The proposal was 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.
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.
Council was further 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 progress, attention was drawn to the revised copy of Appendix 1 to the report, the Climate Change Action Plan, which had been updated following comments raised during consideration of the document by the Overview and Scrutiny Committee on 22 June 2020 and by Cabinet on 24 June 2020.
In closing, the Climate Emergency and Localism Portfolio Holder thanked the Strategy Specialist (Sustainability) and officers for their work.
Councillor Jones having moved the recommendations contained within the report was seconded by Councillor Vicky Hughes.
A lengthy discussion ensued during which Members expressed strong support for the proposals and commended Councillor Jones and officers for having produced this important document. Comments included the urgent need to address climate change and biodiversity loss and for the Council to seize the opportunity for positive leadership; the potential for hydro power making use of becks and streams within the area; promotion of active travel; and for the Council to consider the carbon generated by officers travelling to work and need to look towards sustainable business and a locally based workforce. The Health, Wellbeing and Financial Resilience Portfolio Holder highlighted the importance of the link to the Cumbria Public Health Strategy. Also raised was the hope that the green agenda would spark economic recovery within the area; green recovery was what people were shouting for.
Concern was raised with regard to strong warnings and predictions which, it was felt, could lead to scepticism, as well as causing great distress to young people and it was suggested that regard was paid to the importance of framing words carefully. Also of concern was the money which was being spent on citizens’ juries which, it was felt, could be better spent on appropriate solutions.
Councillor David Webster at this point posed a written question which he had submitted under Cabinet Question Time:-
“I have been informed that the Council is due to purchase new vehicles, light goods, vans and car derived vans. Can you tell me how many of these are to be EVs either full electric or plug in hybrids. I keep being told that the landscape of our district is not suitable for large EVs i.e. refuse but the manufacturers are really pushing their light goods/car ranges of EVs. We as a Council have brought forward our promise to reduce are carbon footprint and due to the rural character of our district this would be an appropriate way to show the residents that we are beginning to achieve this?”
The Director of Customer and Commercial Services explained that the Council was mindful in terms of its Vehicle and Plant Programme and the replacement of vehicles. All vehicle specifications included an option for the supply of alternative fuel vehicles and bidders were encouraged to tender on this basis. A number of small and medium size vehicles had already been trialled, however, so far, a vehicle had not been found which fully met the Council’s needs and there remained the issue regarding the distances covered within South Lakeland. He referred, however, to technical advances that were being made and new vehicles being developed with alternative fuels.
Councillor Webster added, as a supplementary point, the need for the Council to start purchasing and using electric vehicles immediately and not to wait for technical advances. He suggested that the light goods vehicles and cars currently used by Council staff should be looked at.
Councillor Jones stressed the need to have regard to how the Council Tax payer’s money was spent and pointed out that there were a lot of factors to take into consideration. She believed that the Council needed to wait for a couple of years to ensure that the technology had advanced sufficiently to warrant purchase. Councillor Andrew Jarvis, Finance and Resources Portfolio Holder reiterated the fact that specifications included the potential for alternative fuels and social values. He also re-emphasised the need for vehicles that worked for the Council and met the needs of the service area they were to be used in. Councillor Giles Archibald, Leader and Promoting South Lakeland Portfolio Holder, felt that Councillor Webster had raised an important point and suggested that Members be provided with a written response on the Schedule for Procurement of Vehicles.
Councillor Ben Berry referred to paragraph 3.10(2) of the report regarding investigating switching the Council’s electricity tariff to a green tariff from April 2021. He enquired whether consideration would be given only to biomass or if nuclear power, which was zero carbon in production, may also be contemplated. Councillor Jones undertook to provide a written response.
During discussion, Councillor Jones was pleased to raise the fact that the second reading on the Local Electricity Bill was due to take place on 20 July 2020. The Bill aimed to enable electricity generators to become local electricity suppliers. She stressed the need to empower local community groups to sell locally-generated electricity.
Councillor Hughes, having seconded the proposal, felt that this was an excellent document which had been well received by the Overview and Scrutiny Committee.
The Chairman read out the proposal and asked the meeting if the motion was agreed. There being no dissent, it was
RESOLVED – That
(1) the South Lakeland District Council Climate Change Policy be updated to commit the Council as an organisation to be seeking to achieve net carbon neutrality by 2030; and
(2) the South Lakeland District Council Climate Change Policy be updated to support a Cumbria-wide target of carbon neutrality by 2037 and the necessary steps within its powers and resources be taken to achieve this;
(3) the progress on the updated Climate Change Action Plan, revised and circulated prior to the meeting and published alongside the Agenda papers, be noted; and
(4) the establishment of the Climate Change Community Fund set out in Paragraph 3.10 of the report be approved.