2021 is a crunch year for tackling climate change and building back greener from the impacts of Covid. This week, the Zero Carbon Tour bus is visiting our area, stopping at the University of the West of England. The national tour, run by Planet Mark, promotes carbon mitigation and adaptation and will end its journey at the critical 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) in Glasgow. The tour is gathering the “carbon stories” of actions and initiatives being taken to create a sustainable future for the United Kingdom and beyond.
In South Gloucestershire, we have our own ‘carbon stories’ to share.
In July 2019, we declared a Climate Emergency, pledging to lead South Gloucestershire to become carbon neutral by 2030. To support our pledge, we set out a yearly action plan to:-
- Lead by example, decarbonising our own operations and making them climate and ecologically resilient
- Enable a low carbon, climate and ecologically resilient district through our policies, programmes, and decision-making; and
- Inspire residents, communities and businesses, and national Government and agencies, to act fast themselves.
Firstly, to lead by example, we need to achieve extensive year-on-year reductions in our own emissions. This is both directly from our own operations, and from those businesses providing services who can potentially make a real difference.
We have direct control of critical functions and infrastructure such as highways, waste and recycling, planning and regulation of energy efficiency standards in new buildings. Using these, we are pulling together a series of local masterplans that aim to deliver new investment and jobs. Great examples are the Kingswood and Yate masterplans, which are out to consultation and aim to help these areas have prosperous, lower carbon and climate resilient futures. And we are rolling out this masterplan approach to more areas too.
We recognise the important link between nature and climate. We are currently developing our Green Infrastructure Strategy, which sets out our plans for improving the network of green spaces and water courses, including parks, nature reserves and other open spaces across South Gloucestershire that make our area so special.
We are also working through our large local organisations in the Local Strategic Partnership, including with Business West, the University of the West of England and Avon Wildlife Trust.
Business within our district accounts for a third of emissions. But the good news is that these emissions have been coming down steadily. Although partially due to changes in industry and the decarbonisation of the national grid, emissions reductions are also a result of efforts by local companies big and small.
We have made a good start but we know that we still have a long way to go to meet our net zero pledge.
Leader of South Gloucestershire Council Cllr Toby Savage