Councillors have unanimously agreed for Warwick District Council to declare a Climate Emergency. Read the all party statement.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) advise in their report that we have until 2030 to take urgent action on climate change in order to keep the earth's rising temperature below 1.5 degree Celsius. This means the current global target to cut carbon emissions by 80% by 2050 is unlikely to be enough to avoid a catastrophic change in our climate. Business as usual is no longer an option and Warwick District Council have recognised this by declaring a Climate Emergency.
What does it mean to declare a 'Climate Emergency'?
Declaring a Climate Emergency makes it a requirement to take immediate action to drastically reduce carbon emissions. This means the Council is now accountable for delivering the requirements of its Climate Emergency Declaration.
The commitments of the declaration are as follows:
- Being a carbon neutral organisation by 2025, including with all contracted our services.
- Facilitating decarbonisation by local businesses, organisations and residents, in order for Warwick District to be as close to zero by 2030 as possible.
- Working with other local councils to lobby the central government to provide funding and change regulations to ensure the commitments can be adequately addressed.
- Engaging with and listening to all relevant stakeholders, including the members of Warwickshire Youth Parliament regarding approaches to tackling the climate emergency.
- Ensuring that tackling the Climate Emergency in terms of adaption and mitigation, is central to the strategic business plan.
- Producing by November 2019, an action plan to implement these commitments. Councillor Alan Rhead as the portfolio holder for Environment and Business, has formed a group with shadow portfolio holders for this purpose.
How are we becoming carbon neutral?
We have adopted a short-term action programme to give momentum to the ambition of becoming carbon neutral. This action plan sets out what we are already doing to reduce energy consumption in our buildings, to generate low carbon energy in the District, to encourage sustainable and active transport in the District, and to support our residents in reducing energy consumption in homes.
However, this Action Plan is just the start. We are working to establish a substantial Climate Action Fund to support our future ambitions. We are also listening to residents and looking at local data to make sure out future plans help us all progress as quickly as possible. Our plans aim to reduce the amount of carbon arising from the District as well as offsetting (or capturing) carbon where we can.
This process of becoming 'net-zero' or also known as carbon neutral, involves balancing the carbon we emit and take in through offsetting. Offsetting means compensating and funding projects to balance out carbon emissions, this can be as simple as planting trees. We have made a commitment to planting 160,000 trees, one for every citizen in Warwick District by 2030. As well as helping to absorb carbon emissions, trees help to enhance biodiversity, are a great away to absorb emissions from the air and provide areas of cooling and shading during hot weather spells. We are committed to reducing our carbon emissions as much as possible, but doing this will be costly and some schemes may take years to deliver. Therefore, some offsetting is currently required for the Council to meet its commitments.
What has been happening so far?
We have been making progress in key areas as follows:
- Warwick District People's Climate Inquiry - The Climate Inquiry is taking place during November 2020 to February 2021 to make our residents a part of developing our climate emergency plans for this important area of work.
- Measuring Our Carbon Emissions - Our carbon emissions baseline has been calculated in relation to our own buildings and the District. We know our baseline emissions from transport, homes and other areas and emissions from our Council buildings and operations. We are part of the UN Climate Neutral Now Scheme, helping us to calculate our baseline and year on year emissions and to help in our understanding of how we are meeting our carbon reduction targets.
- Climate Emergency Action Plan - Our top level plan has been developed and is linked to budget to deliver key priority areas.
- Fossil Fuel Investments - Members have agreed to adopt a strategy of divesting from fossil fuel investments and to look at our pension funds.
- New Buildings - A priority is making new buildings as low carbon as possible, which includes the proposed community stadium and Kenilworth Leisure Centres. This also includes exploring District Heating opportunities. We are producing a new Sustainable Building and Climate Change Development Plan Document so that all new homes must meet low carbon standards.
- Housing - We have set aside substantial budget to introduce energy efficiency measures in to Council housing across the district. There is a project to deliver low carbon retrofit to social properties and new build low carbon properties. We applied for the Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund (Demonstrator) fund and were successful and Green Homes Grant (LAD) Fund to install renewable technologies to our social properties.
- Bike Share Scheme - A bike share scheme for the District including electric bikes is being explored to help residents stay more active and we are exploring funding to get the scheme launched.
- Electric Buses - We are working with Warwickshire County Council to explore an electric bus service linking the proposed park and ride to the south of Warwick with the town centres.
- Our Buildings - We have undertaken energy assessments of our key buildings and obtained budget to develop proposals to replace gas boilers with air source heat pumps. In addition, we have applied to the Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme to make improvements to our buildings to reduce carbon.
- Electric Vehicles - We have seven electric and hybrid vehicles in operation to support our service delivery with further vehicles being explored.
- Hydrogen - We are actively exploring the potential for hydrogen fuelling in the District to support low emission hydrogen vehicles.
- Tree Planting - Our first trees have been planted as part of our tree planting priorities to plant 160,000 trees one for every Citizen in the District.
- A great deal of other work has been happening on the ground including a project to encourage our contractors to go carbon neutral and we have also successfully achieved funding from the Local Enterprise Partnership to support walking and cycling improvements and green travel reward schemes as part of the forthcoming Commonwealth Games.
There is so much more we can do and would like to do, but we need to prioritise to ensure we get the greatest gains as quickly as possible. Further plans are therefore being developed during 2021.