Council considers declaration of Climate Emergency

Wealden Council is considering whether to publicly declare a Climate Emergency.Wealden logo cropped

This follows publication of a report warning of the “devastating consequences” of global warming of 1.5°C.

Wealden’s Cabinet, which meets today, will be told about action the council is already taking to address climate change and how these commitments could be strengthened.

Consquences

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, which prompted the agenda item, says human activities are estimated to have already caused a 1°C increase in average global temperatures compared to pre-industrial levels, with consequences seen through more extreme weather, rising sea levels and diminishing Arctic sea ice, among other changes.

Impacts of a 1.5°C rise include “… devastating consequences, even half a degree more will significantly worsen the risks of drought floods, extreme heat, and poverty with some impacts, such as the loss of ecosystems, potentially being irreversible”.

Strikes

The report to Cabinet says that since publication of the IPCC findings there have been a wave of school strikes, and large-scale public demonstrations, all demanding increased action on climate change.

It adds: “This has been accompanied by a rapid (global) increase in the number of local councils declaring a ‘Climate Emergency’ and committing to take action.”

The report says there has been an increasing interest in the effects of climate change locally, including receipt of a petition from a pupil at Montessori Place school, signed by another ten pupils.

Petition

“The petition picks up on a number of the points raised in this report, and the outcome will be shared with these young people with a view to engaging them in further discussions.”

The council report says declaring a Climate Emergency is an acknowledgement of the scale of the problem and a recognition of the urgency for change.

“Limiting warming to 1.5C may still be possible with ambitious action from national and local authorities, citizens, and the private sector.

Change

“Indeed, it will only be possible if change happens across all sectors of society.”

The report says there are multiple benefits of transitioning to a low-carbon economy, including to health from better air quality, less noise thanks to quieter vehicles, more active travel, healthier diets, and increased recreational benefits due to changes to land use.

It says there are economic benefits associated with the development of low-carbon products and services. Those products and services include electric vehicles, finance and engineering, and carbon capture and storage, with potential benefits for exports, productivity and jobs.

Costs

“Conversely, the costs to the economy and society of not taking action are predicted to be significantly higher and pose a real threat to sustainable development and eradicating poverty.”

Action already taken by the council, to combat the effects of climate change, includes:

  • Concentrating its offices on the Vicarage Lane site in Hailsham. The offices have a passive ventilation system, large solar photovoltaic array, air source heat pump, increased insulation and energy efficiency standards, solar shading, cycle storage, and a car-share scheme with dedicated car-share bays.
  • Substantial improvements to the council’s general needs housing and retirement living courts. 
  • Agile working and IT solutions which allow staff to work off-site and reducing the need to travel. 
  • The exploration of low carbon and renewable energy potential investment opportunities, including large-scale solar, storage and heat networks. The redevelopment of Vicarage Field Shopping Centre in Hailsham has been identified as an opportunity for the creation of an ‘exemplar project’ with, for example, the incorporation of co-located technologies such as a heat network, solar PC, battery storage, and EV charging. 

Wider action

The report says wider action is needed if the council is to succeed in dramatically reducing emissions within the district. This will require a significant shift in behaviour as well as policy changes and further advancements in technology.

Ways the council could act as Community Leader and influence residents, businesses and other public bodies in a number of areas include:

Clear policy

  • Setting a clear policy steer for new development through the Wealden Local Plan. The plan-led approach seeks to mitigate the impact of new development by ensuring it is sited in locations with access to public transport, employment opportunities and facilities, reducing the need to travel; that EV charge points are incorporated into new developments, and that energy use is minimised.
  • Granting planning permission for renewable energy generation 
  • Exploring options to promote and accelerate the take-up of electric vehicles (EVs) in the district through the provision and/or facilitation of EV charging infrastructure. 
  • Delivering domestic energy efficiency advice schemes across all housing tenures (including private), to help improve energy efficiency, reduce emissions, and reduce fuel poverty. 
  • This includes referrals for free Warm Home Checks, and sourcing of available grant funding, as well as pop-up energy shops, smart meter roadshows, and targeting of low SAP rated properties. 
  • Supporting local households at medium to high risk of flooding and encouraging resilience by providing free property surveys, and grant funding towards the cost of flood defence measures. 
  • Promoting waste reduction initiatives, including development of a single-use plastics reduction plan
  • Working collaboratively with other local authorities and public bodies, together with business leaders to share expertise and good practice on a variety of topics. 

Declaration

Declaration of a Climate Emergency could include commitments such as:

  • Work towards net-zero CO2 by 2050 for both the council and Wealden district area, and pursue efforts to achieve net-zero CO2 emissions even earlier 
  • Work with Government departments to ensure necessary policies (such as tighter building regulations), powers and funding are put in place to achieve a net-zero CO2 target 
  • Request that the Economic and Waste Cabinet Advisory Group investigate opportunities available and report back to Cabinet. 
  • Develop a clear action plan setting out a costed suite of practical actions demonstrating the council’s initial phase of delivery towards net-zero CO2 emissions which define its leadership role in promoting community-wide action
  • Build on work to identify opportunities for low carbon and renewable energy sources and storage, and the acceleration of electric vehicles take-up within the district
  • Work with, influence, and inspire partners across the county and region via existing forums to deliver this goal through all relevant strategies and plans 
  • Implement a plan-led approach to development that minimises and mitigates against emissions from new development
  • Investigate all potential sources of funding to support these commitments.

Here is a link the full Wealden Council report, Responding to the ‘Climate Emergency’ on its website.

See also:

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Uckfield Rugby Club to launch new mini and junior season in September

Two new groups starting at Uckfield art therapy studio

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