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Agenda item

Climate Emergency Update Report - Public Consultation

Minutes:

The Committee considered the joint report of the Corporate Director of Regeneration and Local Services and Director of Transformation and Partnerships that provided members with an outline of the approach and a scope of the public consultation that was underway on proposals to achieve a reduction in both the Council’s emissions and Countywide emissions (for copy or report, see file of minutes).

 

The Head of Environment was in attendance to present the report and deliver a presentation that highlighted the following points:

 

·       The Climate Crisis / Climate Emergency

·       County Durham Temperatures

·       Two Emergency Targets Set

o   Council Emissions

o   Countywide Emissions

·       What the Council are Consulting on

  • Information was provided that indicated that the effects of climate change was evident in county Durham with temperatures rising and this had led to flooding which impacted on the economy, health and the environment.
  • Two targets had been set, the first was to reduce the Council’s carbon emissions by 60% by 2030 and the second was to investigate further actions to make county Durham completely carbon neutral by 2050 as set out in the Climate Emergency report that was presented at Council in July 2019.
  • However, it was highlighted that the Council’s emissions only made up 3% of the county’s emissions.
  • The Council emissions target was focused on four target areas, heat – refurbish buildings, improve insulation, better boilers and biomass boilers; electricity – the use of solar panels on Durham County Council buildings, transport - the authority’s pool car contract was due for renewal soon and there was potential for energy saving options; large HGVs were waiting for the technology to catch up and consideration of other non electric initiatives such as bio gas and the use of electric bin lifts which provided reductions in noise and fuel; and schools using biomass boilers and LED lighting replacement.
  • The Countywide emission targets would focus on improvements in energy efficiency of homes, businesses and community buildings; generate more energy from County Durham’s natural, renewable energy resources; find greener ways to heat buildings such as district heating schemes; that county Durham was ready for electric vehicles, Durham County Council in partnership with others had 100 charging points for electric vehicle but more was required. Members were informed that an additional 63 hectares of land had been identified under the urban tree challenge. In terms of recycling and waste reduction county Durham was a leader in the North East but there was a long way to go to be a national leader.
  • The County Council’s emissions target is currently 42% with a target of 45% by 2020 and 55% by 2025.
  • The consultation asked a series of questions asking for ideas in relation to the focus of climate change in county Durham and raise awareness of a Climate Pledge. Within the consultation documentation was a link to the full climate emergency report that respondents are encouraged to read if they are completing the full consultation. An option was available for recipients to complete a shorter survey. The survey had involvement from children and young people and to date there had been a good response to the consultation.

 

The Chair thanked the Head of Environment for his presentation and indicated that the authority needed as much information as they could from the public. The role of the committee was to view and review the recommendations, but they also had an opportunity to feed into the consultation.

 

Councillor Avery referred to the insulation projects that had taken place in the Dean Bank area that had added insulation to the outside of the homes and had tidied them up. He added that the project was EU funded.

 

The Head of Environment responded that Durham University were involved in assessing these schemes and the benefits of the project were pointed out to central Government to support local authorities and social housing associations.

 

The Chair asked how they planned to measure the difference.

 

The Head of Environment responded that the overall consumption across the county was calculated by government. The county figures were based on all energy providers which was split into sectors and the results of the scheme were shown in the government figures. Occupiers of the scheme also shared before and after energy consumption with the university to show the success of the scheme, which was part of the overall project evidence of benefits.

 

Councillor Dunn referred to the carbon emissions targets set by the council that received some criticism as it was not too ambitious, but it needed to be realistic and that government support was needed. He indicated that it was absolutely right that the council consult with the people in County Durham and listen to them as the council did not have all the answers or solutions. They needed everyone on board as the council’s emissions only accounted for 3% of the county’s total emissions. The council declared the climate emergency nearly a year ago and that Durham County Council had come a long way, schools and the Durham County Council estate should reduce their carbon footprint as soon as possible with the use of solar panels and LED lighting. Areas such as transport may take longer and require further research and development. Councillor Dunn advised he was looking forward to hearing what people thought.

 

The Head of Environment indicated that the climate emergency was declared in February 2019 and they were not going to wait for the consultation before doing any work. They had an action plan that recognised that resources were needed and the items with the lowest cost, but higher impact would be picked for those early wins.

 

Mrs R Morris indicated that she welcomed the consultation and asked what were their priorities and if Area Action Partnerships around the county could be asked what their priorities were. In rural areas there were particular issues about carbon emissions and transport needs. She went on to suggest that raising awareness was critical.

 

The Head of Environment responded that the consultation was to glean what people felt were priorities. There was no particular theme and they would pick out the sorts of things that were low in cost but delivered high returns. Greta Thunberg stated that the most important priority was people informing themselves of the problem, but the council’s action plan highlighted education and awareness as important and would help to inform people and this was a significant area of work.

 

Mrs R Morris indicated that she was concerned that communities should articulate their concerns and gave an example of in her area the local school were posting notices to ask people waiting for children to switch off their engines and that more children could walk to school. She went on to suggest that this was something Durham County Council could do with all local authority maintained schools in county Durham as this was a low or no cost solution that would provide a benefit.

 

The Head of Environment stated that this would come through in the consultation and that it was a good idea to get schools involved. This would be a low cost with a reward and underlined why they welcomed consultation and feedback.

 

Councillor Carr indicated that communities should receive education via the Area Action Partnerships in relation to how to become more energy efficient. Meetings could be held about what could do done and who were the affordable energy suppliers and the grants available.

 

The Head of Environment referred to the BEEP project which had helped lots of small to medium enterprises (SMEs) and BEEP2 had now been established using European funding doing tremendous work. Grants were available and they had helped a lot of organisations and they hoped to build on that and extend further.

 

The Chair asked if academies were included in the 3% figure for Durham County Council.

 

The Head of Environment responded that this did not include academies, but they could offer them support.

 

The Chair then referred to the emissions targets and asked about the position regarding academies. He also asked about the role of woodland and peatland and whether we were exploring the use of hydrogen powered vehicles.

 

The Head of Environment responded that carbon emissions of academies would not be included within the Durham County Council measure but obviously would form part of the countywide measure. The council did work with some academies in identifying carbon emission reductions that they could make. His team had also identified areas of Durham County Council land next to ancient woodland that could have a win through natural colonisation and explained that the service was looking at grant schemes. Where areas were threatened by disease such as Ash Dieback the service was planning to plant more trees.

 

The Chair went on to advise that Durham County Council should also be looking at new technologies such as hydrogen powered vehicles in addition to electric vehicles.

 

The Head of Environment indicated that hydrogen was an area that they were looking at.

 

Mr T Bolton referred to some excellent work carried out with Durham County Council and community centres that provided an energy efficiency survey that resulted in lights been replaced with LED lights and asked if this was something that Durham County Council actively promoted and contacted parishes and community centres. He also referred to the LED street lighting programme and asked if they had considered solar power units for road signage.

 

The Head of Environment responded that the work to retrofit 60,000 street lights was a significant project and that a further 15,000 street lights were being considered and would lead to further carbon reductions. He had not heard about solar powered road signage so would feed this back to colleagues. He went on to advise that giving advice to communities was an important element of reducing carbon emissions and that Evergreen fund was a government fund that provided upfront costs and then the communities paid back but it was for members to determine.

 

Mrs P Holding indicated that she was delighted that the Council had invested into tree planting around the County and that the County Durham Local Access Forum were looking at areas for tree planting with paths for walks that would help people’s wellbeing and the environment.

 

The Head of Environment responded that the Head of Corporate Property and Land was systematically looking at the best use of land holdings. Members would hear more about the urban tree fund in the coming weeks where the council would be working with social housing.

 

Councillor Higgins asked if they had considered reducing the summer school holiday to 4 weeks and move to the winter months to make energy savings.

 

The Head of Environment indicated that he was not aware that this was being looked at, but all ideas would be looked at as part of the consultation.

 

Resolved: (i)That the report and presentation be noted.

 

(ii) That the Committee continue to receive updates on the Climate Emergency response and monitor its progress.

Supporting documents:

 

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