South Gloucestershire Council Members unanimously passed a motion declaring a climate Emergency at their meeting tonight (Wednesday 17 July). The motion included the commitment from all parties to provide the leadership to enable South Gloucestershire to become carbon neutral by 2030.
The motion places South Gloucestershire Council at the heart of local efforts to reduce carbon emissions, but also to press for more powers, policies and investment from Government to deliver on our ambitious targets. Further, the Council will seek to provide local leadership to enable our communities to ultimately achieve 100 per cent clean energy across all sectors.
The motion sets out the next steps we will now take to reach Net Zero emissions by 2030, including:
Working with the West of England Combined Authority (WECA) and our West of England partners to produce an ambitious delivery plan for the West of England Energy Strategy to use as a key tool for seeking policy changes and more local powers, as well as Government funding, to help us deliver our 2030 target;
Update the South Gloucestershire Climate Change Strategy to reflect the increased urgency and ambition outlined in this motion, and, with our partners across the community, to develop an action plan and ‘route map’ to a sustainable, low carbon future for our community and also to reflect the new proposed national target of net zero by 2050;
Scrutiny Commission will also form a cross-party Task & Finish group to assess how South Gloucestershire Council can reach Net Zero by 2030 and contribute their work into council-wide efforts. They will also analyse the gaps within our current plans to enable the area to meet Net Zero emissions.
Progress on all of this work will be reported back to the Full Council meeting in December and there will be annual reporting thereafter.
Leader of the Council and Conservative Group, Councillor Toby Savage, said: “I welcome the constructive way this Council has been able to address this important topic which transcends party politics. Our climate does face serious challenges and I am pleased we have been able to work together to meet them head on.
“This Council has made significant steps towards decreasing its carbon emissions in the past few years, reducing our emissions by half over the past decade and of that we can all be very proud, but with more and more conclusive physical evidence and academic research highlighting the intensifying problem, there is a clear need to do more, and quicker.
“Emissions across South Gloucestershire are not substantial compared to elsewhere in the world, or even this country, but this is not an excuse to bury our head in the sand. It is our responsibility to lead by example and look to Central Government to make necessary changes to policy that give us the powers to continue our efforts and see this through.”
Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group, Councillor Claire Young, said: “I am proud to have proposed this motion and I am very grateful that all parties have got on-board to ensure that South Gloucestershire Council provides a united front on this most critical of issues. The work needed to make South Gloucestershire carbon neutral by 2030 is very significant. But with this motion, we have taken the first important step by providing the political leadership and saying: ‘this must happen.’ To do any less would be a dereliction of duty to our children and to future generations. Now the real work must begin, to bring our carbon footprint bit-by-bit, year-by-year, down to zero.”
Leader of the Labour Group, Councillor Pat Rooney, said: “This will be a challenging goal, however the evidence that has been presented to us shows that this is the only sensible and responsible course of action if we stand any chance of preserving our environment for future generations. I am pleased that the three political groups on South Gloucestershire Council have worked together to reach a unanimous agreement to call a Climate Change Emergency in order to achieve net zero emissions by 2030.”
The Council has already made significant progress in achieving our existing targets to reduce our environmental impact, which were updated in the South Gloucestershire Climate Change Strategy 2018-2023. This outlined an emissions reduction of 80 per cent by 2050, which at the time was in line with national ambitions. Steps already taken include:
- Investment in a greener fleet of vehicles, including plug-in electric cars, electric bicycles for staff use and using technology such as Skype to reduce the need to drive around the district where appropriate. Our electric vehicle fleet currently stands at 18 vehicles achieved with funding from a West of England grant. This conversion has resulted in approximately £6000 reduction in fuel costs per annum and a reduction of over one tonne of C02 due to reduced emissions.
- A programme to replace all street lighting with LEDs. LED lights use approximately 60 per cent less energy than regular lights. So when the roll out is finished in 2024 we will have reduced carbon emissions by 4,800 tonnes (60 per cent). The lights also last four times as long and are cheaper and easier to maintain.
- Removed single-use cups and cutlery from our staff canteen and catering services; and
- Overseen a significant boost in recycling rates and a reduction in waste sent to landfill. Since weekly recycling collections started in June 2017 to March 2019 we have collected:
- 10,890 tonnes less black bin waste (13 per cent less)
- 6,007 tonnes more recycling (12 per cent increase)
- Our overall recycling rate has increased from 47 per cent to around 58 per cent of material collected at the kerbside.
In 2016, South Gloucestershire’s emissions were measured to be 41 per cent lower than in 1990, which is in line with the national decline in emissions; and our direct emissions are now 50 per cent lower than in the baseline year 2009/10.