Tackle the climate emergency
Our shared challenge
The science and evidence is clear - climate change poses a massive threat to our way of life and the time for action is now. We use the phrase 'climate emergency' to reinforce the urgency required. If we don't face up to our responsibility we will see more flooding, pollution, threats to wildlife and an uncertain future for the next and future generations. While Government and international bodies should take the lead, we can make a big difference locally. Our ambition is to become a carbon neutral borough, reducing our emissions of greenhouse gases to net zero by 2045 or earlier. Council emissions only make up 0.7 per cent of the borough's greenhouse gas emissions. As a council we will play our part and we will be carbon neutral by 2030, but we need to encourage and support others to reduce their emissions. The UK is not currently going to meet its target of being carbon neutral by 2050, so there is a need to rapidly increase the rate of greenhouse gas reduction to ensure that west Cheshire makes its contribution to this national and international challenge.
This will require concerted action across industry in particular, given the high level of manufacturing in the borough. We will also need to see more sustainable energy, waste, transport and land use. Every citizen has a role to play, and often small things will add up to a big difference. If we get this right we will not only secure a better future for those that follow us, we will also support economic growth in new green industries, support healthier lifestyles and help tackle fuel poverty.
What our residents think
83 per cent of respondents to the resident's survey said that they were concerned about climate change, with 44 per cent of respondents being very concerned. 21 per cent agree that 2050 is the right deadline by which to bring UK emissions to net zero, but 55 per cent think that it should be done more quickly.
Over three-quarters of participants agreed with all the Council's proposals for tackling the climate emergency, with particularly strong support around tree planting, energy efficient homes and supporting industry to reduce their carbon footprint. There were also calls for the Council to lead by example, to invest in awareness and educational behaviour change campaigns and to improve the public transport and cycling infrastructure to make sustainable transport a more viable option. Over two-thirds of residents agreed with ideas of how residents could play their part, particularly around reducing and recycling waste, buying local and green and switching to greener energy.
We need to make low carbon journeys, save water, pass on plastics, fight against food waste, shop local, and save energy.
Youth Senate response to the Play Your Part engagement
What our partners think
Our partners share our ambition to become carbon neutral and are already working to reduce their own carbon footprints, contribute to the national clean air strategy and work with local communities to inform people about how they can reduce their own carbon footprints. Cheshire and Vale Royal Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) commented that getting this right will not only secure a better future for those that follow us, but will also support economic growth support healthier lifestyles, help tackle fuel poverty and ensure the responsible use of NHS resources that will help to minimise costs and maximise the funds available for patient care.
What success will look like
- the Council producing less greenhouse gas
- residents and businesses producing less greenhouse gas
- improved access to alternative modes of transport such as buses, electric vehicles, cycling and walking
- more energy efficient homes and buildings
- less waste and higher rates of recycling
How the Council will play its part
Throughout 2020 we will be working up our plans with councillors, experts and residents. Our initial proposals are as follows.
The Council, as an organisation, emits around 28,332 tonnes of CO2 emissions each year. While this is just 0.7 per cent of total carbon emissions for the borough, we will set an example as a low carbon organisation. This will involve reducing the number of buildings we have and making the rest more energy efficient; purchasing our energy from renewable sources; reducing staff travel emissions through flexible working and alternative modes of transport; ensuring all our decisions consider the impact on climate change; purchasing goods and services from local organisations that demonstrate strong environmental credentials; using more energy efficient street lights; moving to a low emissions fleet of vehicles; offsetting the remainder of the Council's emissions, and working with our staff to embed a more environmentally aware culture. We will also invest in capacity to co-ordinate our response to the climate emergency.
Industrial emissions account for 64 per cent of the total carbon footprint of west Cheshire. This is hardly surprising given large local organisations involved in heavy industry. At peak periods, Ellesmere Port alone consumes as much as 5 per cent of the UK's energy. This is both a challenge and an opportunity. Through our Local Industrial Strategy we will work with these sectors to help them move to lower carbon forms of production. The Cheshire Energy Hub is a cluster of energy intensive industries in the area supported by the Council and the Local Enterprise Partnership. They are currently developing ground breaking plans for low carbon energy for industry through efficiency measures, innovative technologies, developing local skills, new storage facilities and transportation systems, local energy generation projects and the use of zero carbon fuels such as hydrogen. An Energy Innovation District for Ellesmere Port, where much of the heavy industry is located, is being formed to develop these plans further and provide the opportunity to offer a blueprint for how moving away from carbon can be linked to regional economic prosperity. We will also work with industry and Government to explore the use of carbon capture technologies that reduce emissions. We also want to explore how we attract new industries that specialise in green technologies and what green technologies we can adopt as a Council. Climate change is a global issue that requires a local response; we will work closely with our neighbouring authorities, the Cheshire and Warrington Local Enterprise Partnership and partners across the sub-region to co-ordinate our response.
We will bring forward plans for the acceleration of renewable energy. We want to explore the opportunity for investment in a solar and or wind farm to generate renewable energy for the local area. We also want to promote renewable energy sources through our local planning processes. Often residents and businesses are seeking guidance on what they can do in relation to energy so we will develop a plan to pull together appropriate advice and support.
We will support greater use of public transport and alternative forms of transport such as cycling and walking. We have an active travel forum which brings together key stakeholders interested in this agenda. Digital infrastructure also has a role to play, with improved mobile connectivity and full fibre broadband reducing the need for physical transport. This will require significant new investment both from the public and private sector. We will support a robust local network of charging points to encourage people to make the switch to electric vehicles, and explore how this will align to our parking strategy. In addition to reducing greenhouse gases, these actions will also have a positive impact on local air quality and health.
We want to explore what more the Council and other local organisations could do to support homes to be more energy efficient. As well as promoting more energy efficient new build homes, this could involve actions to increase insulation, energy storage and promoting the retrofitting of renewable energy technology in existing homes. It may be possible to fund these schemes through the subsequent energy savings to the property.
Household waste collection and the disposal of non-recyclable household waste contribute 39.5 per cent of the Council's carbon emissions. We already have high levels of recycling, and our household waste collection service has been recognised as the most carbon efficient in England for four out of the last five years, but we recognise that we cannot be complacent. The Council is currently undertaking a strategic review of its waste strategy to provide a 10 year plan for the management of household waste and recycling. The outcomes of the Council's waste strategy review will inform the future shape of our waste collection and recycling services, and will be available in spring 2021. The strategy will also align with the Government's National Waste Strategy, which sets out how they will preserve material resources by minimising waste, promoting resource efficiency and moving towards a circular economy in England. This, combined with bringing the waste collection service back into local authority control from April 2020 rather than being run through a private company, will create exciting opportunities for change. We intend our new waste service to be run on cooperative principles where residents, businesses and staff have a greater say in the operation of the service, helping to reduce, reuse and recycle waste.
As a borough with many rural communities, it is essential that we support the agricultural sector to play its part. The Council owns a significant farm estate and we will consider how this could provide opportunities to promote lower carbon methods of farming. Cheshire is home to experts in world class agricultural practices such as Reaseheath College which helps promote leading practices. We may also review the grants and support we provide to rural communities to promote more sustainable futures.
Building on current good practice, the Council has the opportunity in its Local Plan to promote more sustainable development. This could involve decisions around land use, urban design, transport, promoting physical activity and active transport and the energy efficiency of development. It could also involve identifying measures to adapt to the effects of climate change such as flooding.
Trees provide a natural and cost effective solution to capture and absorb carbon dioxide emissions. Through organisations such as the Mersey Forest and other community groups we will support schemes that accelerate the pace of tree planting across the borough, at the same time making it more attractive, encouraging people to engage with the great outdoors and helping flora and fauna to thrive.
While we are heartened to see the Government sign up to become a net zero carbon country by 2050, we want to work with the Government to see funding and powers devolved to the local area to make this happen.
How residents can play their part
We need to be realistic. The Council will never be able to tackle all the challenges facing the borough on its own. Working together to build stronger communities has to be at the heart of our approach. Local communities are a huge resource of great ideas, innovation and action. We need everyone to play their part.
As we develop our plans we want residents to share their ideas on how we can tackle this challenge. We are keen for everyone to get involved as this involves all generations.
The Climate Emergency
Buying more products from local suppliers and businesses committed to a sustainable future helps us all play our part. A good example is the rapid move away from single-use plastics due to consumer pressure. Also, consider energy ratings when replacing white goods and other devices - efficient devices cost less to run as well as reducing your emissions.
Calculate your carbon footprint
Consider car sharing, use public transport or other forms of transport such as walking and cycling where possible. If you are buying a vehicle, consider electric and low emission versions. You may also want to consider offsetting your travel emissions by contributing to things like tree planting schemes.
There are now more options from new and traditional energy providers which focus on renewable and lower carbon energy.
By reducing the amount of waste sent for disposal you can make a massive difference. By actively reducing the amount you waste, reducing single-use plastics, buying products that use less packaging, reducing food waste and recycling more you can play your part.
Consider moving to a greener diet in line with United Nations recommendations.
The Mersey Forest
The Mersey Forest Plan is a commitment to increase woodland cover and to help to offset our carbon emissions which receives significant funding from Cheshire West and Chester Council. The forest isn't just about carbon capture though. The Natural Health Service uses the forest for evidence-based interventions to tackle poor health. Targeted at the areas with greatest health inequalities in west Cheshire, they make use of green spaces, our woodlands and parks, to help improve people's mental health and increase their physical activity.
Just one of the projects taking place in the forest will engage more than 3,000 people in 8-12 weeks of evidence based activities that increase physical activity by 40% and wellbeing by around 20%. These programmes will offset our carbon emissions whilst at the same time supporting people to live better, healthier lives and reduce demand on the health and social care system. In November 2019 Cheshire's Natural Health Service was awarded Best Nature Based project in the Year of Green Action at the Innovation in Public Health Awards.
The Mersey Forest
Investing in our priorities
All available council resources will be marshalled to tackle the climate emergency and new investment from Government and the private sector will also be identified to help. In addition we will invest £16.2 million of capital funding in projects that reduce the borough's carbon footprint.
Who needs to be involved to make this happen?
Every service within the Council will contribute to this priority.
Supporting plans and strategies