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Launching UK100’s Countryside Climate Network

Climate change affects everyone, everywhere, and rural towns and villages can be more vulnerable to its impacts, such as extreme weather. UK100 has always been an inclusive organisation, but it is no secret that most of our 96 members have represented metropolitan places. This edition of our newsletter is focused on the launch of our Countryside Climate Network, spotlighting the role that more rural councils play in creating climate solutions. With the launch of the Countryside Climate Network we are making an activel decision to ensure that the rural voices are part of discussion about climate action.

Countryside councils are well placed to tackle climate change and meet the needs and ambitions of their communities for economic recovery and better health and wellbeing. They have to innovate, since many climate solutions have so far been designed for more urban settings, and they are elected, giving them democratic legitimacy to deliver lasting change. The network is here to enable our members to share their experiences of what works and to provide a platform from which they can highlight their successes, as well as the challenges they face.

This isn’t about a competition between rural areas and urban areas. The whole country needs to move swiftly towards a net zero future and so all our members, rural and urban, will want to collaborate and support each other in meeting that national priority.

I am delighted that we have 21 founding members of the Countryside Climate Network, brought together under the leadership of Cllr Steve Count, Leader of Cambridgeshire County Council. I am incredibly grateful to him for the energy he has injected into this new network. Fifteen of the members are entirely new to UK100, which brings our total membership well over 100, a long-standing goal of mine. Given the horrendous impact of Covid-19 and the amount of focus councils have rightly devoted to it, the fact that we have achieved this milestone in the middle of a global pandemic highlights how seriously climate change is being taken by councils across the whole country.

There is a myth that the countryside is somehow peripheral to the economy and to climate change, but that is not the case. Devastating floods and droughts cause acute hardship for rural communities and threaten our food supply chain. Per capita carbon emissions are actually higher in rural areas compared to urban areas because of inefficient insulation and high-carbon fuel sources in the housing stock, a lack of options for lower carbon travel and land-use emissions. But the countryside is also home to a huge amount of innovation.

With COP26 being postponed to November next year, the network has time to build its profile and impact. But that doesn’t mean our members aren’t taking action right now. In this newsletter you will read about some wonderful examples of climate action in rural areas. In Swaffham Prior in Cambridgeshire, the whole village is undergoing a transition from oil-fired heating to ground-source heat pumps. Just outside Canterbury, planning permission has been granted for a green hydrogen plant, powered by offshore wind, the hydrogen will be used to power the next generation bus fleet. In Cornwall, every council decision is considered in relation to its impact on climate change as well as other so called ‘planetary boundaries’.
I hope you enjoy learning about these examples. If you want to find out more about the Countryside Climate Network, please visit our website or get in touch with David, our Countryside Climate Network Coordinator david.cope@uk100.org. You can see more information about the launch on our Twitter and LinkedIn.

Cornwall’s ambition – carbon neutral by 2030, by Cllr. Edwina Hannaford

Cornwall Council was privileged to become the one hundredth signatory of UK100 and a founder member of the Countryside Climate Network and see our membership, alongside other like-minded local authorities, as an opportunity to celebrate our climate action ambitions.

As the Cabinet Member for Climate Change I am honoured with leading our ambitious programme for Cornwall to become carbon neutral by 2030.

Building on the momentum of our nationally renowned Green Cornwall programme and our 2017 Energy Future Vision we have already embraced many of the principles that UK100 embody. We became one of the first local authorities to declare a climate emergency on 22 January 2019, calling for the development of an action plan that would set out the steps required for Cornwall to strive to become carbon neutral by 2030.

In developing our response to climate change, we undertook a greenhouse gas inventory that highlighted Cornwall’s key emitting sectors and engaged with key stakeholders including over 3,000 residents, schools, town and parish councils. Alongside the inventory we commissioned the University of Exeter to carry out 2030 and 2050 scenario modelling which identified solutions to high emitting sectors and the potential timescales for reaching carbon neutrality; this evidence- based approach set the focus and framework for our subsequent action plan development.

On 24 July 2019 the Council’s Cabinet unanimously agreed the emerging Climate Change Action Plan; this plan set out a regional leadership approach across multiple systems that is redefining our role as we realign significant resources and focus onto the battle against climate change. We supported the resourcing of a core Carbon Neutral Cornwall Team and priority projects including the Forest for Cornwall, a Whole House Retrofit Pilot and the development of a Climate Change Developing Planning Document (DPD). We supported these key projects by committing £16 million capital funding to enable the delivery of phase one of our action plan. Our action plan has been praised by Greenpeace which has led to approaches from a series of local authorities from across the UK asking for support in developing their own responses.

Whilst the adoption of the Carbon Neutral Action Plan and priority actions was unanimous, we have acknowledged the need to consider social justice, and ensure that no Cornish residents are worse off when we are developing our response to the climate emergency. As a key part of our approach to accelerating the operational and facilitation programme, one of our first steps was to introduce a new decision-making tool based on the economist Kate Raworth’s Doughnut Economics model, which has been utilised in all Cabinet decisions since September 2019 and has attracted interest from across the UK. The tool aims to show the environmental and social implications of proposed decisions to ensure that neither our climate nor residents are negatively impacted by the decisions the Council makes. The tool will be rolled out across all of our decision-making processes challenging our strategies, procurement and investment decisions with the purpose of placing people and the planet at the heart of our policies and decisions.

Utilising the principles of the wheel the Council has committed to halting the installation of fossil fuel heating in new Council-built properties; approved funding for a 2.3MW wind turbine that will generate enough electricity for 1,200 homes and has co-invested £1.4 million in deep geothermal energy at the Eden Project alongside European funding and institutional investors. My Cabinet colleagues and I also approved a £2 million investment into the £17 million Saints Trail development which once completed will provide a 30Km network of trails that will connect coastal communities, link housing and employment growth areas, helping to reduce transport emissions and improve air quality. This focus on modal shift is aligned to £23.5 million of Government funding secured for a pilot that has reduced bus fares across Cornwall to encourage people out of private vehicles.

Cornwall has a proud history of partnership working and we look forward to sharing learning as part of the UK:100 and developing stronger and more powerful associations with like-minded authorities.

Through our research we discovered a ‘policy corridor’ running across the centre of England in which Government has concentrated its infrastructure and innovation investment. With this in mind Cornwall Council initiated Britain’s Leading Edge – a collaboration of upper tier local authority areas that are mainly or largely rural with no major cities echoing the sentiment of the Countryside Climate Network. We know Cornwall and England’s other rural regions are keeping the lights on for the nation producing 37% of England’s renewable energy. Rich in natural and social capital – we collectively offer the secure supplies of clean renewable energy essential to today’s challenged national grid and tomorrow’s decarbonised economy.

Cornwall is already playing a leading role in producing clean energy with around 40% of our power coming from renewables, with an ambition to produce much more. In joining the UK100 and the Countryside Climate Network we are reinforcing this ambition with our pledge to achieve 100% clean energy from fully renewable sources and helping to accelerate the UK’s transition to net zero.

It will be a privilege to join forces with other leading rural local authorities to influence and drive forward the crucial change needed for the UK to bring about environmental, health and economic benefits for our communities.

We are looking forward to making a better future for us all. We have recently pledged to speed up our own climate emergency plan, as part of our Covid-19 recovery work, and will be expanding the use our pioneering decision-making tool to help shape a better future for us all. Prioritising environmental and social benefits to ensure our decision making helps our people and planet to thrive, will be a key pillar of our work to help our residents, businesses and communities to become more resilient in a period of unprecedented change.

Cllr. Edwina Hannaford is the portfolio holder for Climate Change and Neighbourhoods at Cornwall County Council.

Herne Bay’s groundbreaking green hydrogen plant, by Cllr. Dan Watkins

Earlier this month planning permission was given by Canterbury City Council for the construction of the UK’s first green hydrogen plant in the UK. I was heavily involved with this process as the plant will be located in my own ward, and perhaps inevitably with such a new technology, local residents had a number of safety concerns about it.

Operated by Ryse Hydrogen, and located on Council land on the edge of Herne Bay, the hydrogen produced will be 100% ‘green’, having been created using renewable energy from the nearby Kentish Flats offshore wind farm. The first customer for the fuel will be a new fleet of hydrogen-powered London buses, which will be emission-free since the gas produces no carbon emissions when burnt.

As such, this project plant will support the Council’s ambitious targets to reach carbon net-zero, with capacity to produce enough hydrogen fuel to power 300 buses (in place of highly polluting diesel). Only a small fraction of the full capacity of the proposed plant is committed to support Transport for London, with the developer intending to supply hydrogen to bus operators in Kent in future, reducing carbon emissions and improving air quality in the county. This is a major issue locally as locations in Herne and Canterbury regularly see pollution from petrol and diesel vehicles running at a dangerous level and contributing to respiratory illnesses and deaths. Hydrogen fuel offers a solution to this public health risk.

Going forward, the hydrogen from the Ryse plant could also be used to replace diesel in other heavy vehicles, such as trucks and refuse collection vehicles. Longer-term it could also replace the burning of natural gas for the heating of homes and offices, with such trials now underway in the UK. Hydrogen is a very flexible fuel and replaces carbon emissions from the sectors where fossil fuels are most ingrained.

Some local residents had expressed concerns in the planning consultation relating to the safety of the plant. Ryse had assured local residents that their plant will use modern equipment with industry-leading safety standards, but nonetheless, I was involved in many conversations with local residents talking about the project, its benefits and the degree of risk it represented. Ultimately I was reassured by the fact that the global hydrogen industry is already huge, valued at $125 billion, and the company supplying the equipment for this plant has over 3,000 sites across the world.

Once constructed, the manufacturing plant will be the first of its kind in Britain and position Herne Bay at the forefront of the green economy, bringing employment and environmental benefits to our community. I hope that by having championed this first factory, it will be easier for other developers and councils to bring forward their own plans for similar hydrogen projects in their areas.

Dan Watkins is the Climate Change Champion for Canterbury City Council and the Councillor for Greenhill Ward. Canterbury City Council is a founder member of the UK100 Countryside Climate Network.

Open letter from the founders of the Countryside Climate Network

Our rural communities are at the frontline of feeling the effects of climate change. The driest of springs follows a winter of floods. Damaging our food production, bringing hardship to our villages and towns. But we can also be at the forefront of climate action too.

The countryside offers far more than a place to plant millions of trees to offset carbon emissions from elsewhere. Rural communities have always been a great source of national progress and innovation. This is why we have joined forces with UK100 to launch the Countryside Climate Network.

We are a new group of ambitious Council Leaders from predominantly rural parts of the country, collectively representing 40% of England’s land area.

Our goal is to ensure that the voice of rural knowledge and experience on climate action is listened to in Westminster. We need to be an active participant in transforming our national economy into one that saves, rather than harms, our environment. We stand ready to do our bit in the national interest of securing a net zero future for the UK.

Signatories

– Cambridgeshire County Council

Cllr Steve Count, Leader of Cambridgeshire County Council

– Adur District Council

Cllr Neil Parkin, Leader of Adur District Council

– Canterbury District Council

Cllr Dan Watkins, Climate Change and Cycling Champion, Canterbury District Council

Cllr Barbara Flack, Chairman of the Rural Forum and Equality and Diversity Champion, Canterbury District Council

– Central Bedfordshire Council

Cllr Steven Dixon, Executive Member for Transformation and External Bodies, Central Bedfordshire Council

– Cornwall Council

Cllr Edwina Hannaford, Cabinet Member for Climate Change and Neighbourhoods, Cornwall Council

– Cotswold District Council

Cllr Joe Harris, Leader of Cotswold District Council

Cllr Rachel Coxcoon, Cabinet Member for Climate Change & Forward Planning, Cotswold District Council

– Durham County Council

Cllr Simon Henig, Leader of Durham County Council

Cllr Carl Marshall, Cabinet member, Economic Regeneration, Durham County Council

Cllr John D Clare, Climate Change Champion, Durham County Council

– Derbyshire County Council

Cllr Tony King, Cabinet Member for Clean Growth & Regeneration, Derbyshire County Council

– Essex County Council

Cllr Simon Walsh, Cabinet Member for Climate Change Action, Essex County Council

– Gloucestershire County Council

Cllr Nigel Moor, Cabinet Member Environment & Planning, Gloucestershire County Council

– Hampshire County Council

Cllr Keith Mans, Leader of Hampshire County Council

– Herefordshire Unitary Authority

Cllr Ellie Chowns, Cabinet Member for Environment, Economy and Skills, Herefordshire Council

– Leicestershire County Council

Cllr Blake Pain, Lead Member for Environment and Action on Climate Change, Leicestershire County Council

– North Yorkshire County Council

Cllr Carl Les, Leader of North Yorkshire County Council

– Shropshire Unitary Authority

Cllr Dean Carroll, Portfolio Holder for Adult Social Care, Public Health and Climate Change, Shropshire Council

– Somerset County Council

Cllr David Fothergill, Leader of Somerset County Council

– South Gloucestershire Unitary Authority

Cllr Toby Savage, Leader of South Gloucestershire Council

– South Lakeland District Council

Cllr Giles Archibald, Leader of South Lakeland District Council

Cllr Dyan Jones, Cabinet Member for Climate Emergency and Localism, South Lakeland District Council

– Suffolk County Council

Cllr Matthew Hicks, Leader of Suffolk County Council

Cllr Richard Rout, Cabinet Member for Environment & Public Protection, Suffolk County Council

– Wiltshire Unitary Authority

Cllr Philip Whitehead, Leader of Wiltshire Council

– Worthing Borough Council

Cllr Daniel Humphreys, Leader of Worthing Borough Council

 

Climate change is a rural issue, by Cllr Steve Count

I was intrigued to discover that over 60 years ago the first ever low-emissions tractor was built. A working prototype was built by manufacturer Allis-Chalmers, but never made it to commercial sales.

Today, many farmers are looking to switch from red diesel to hydrogen power to save money and our planet. Reducing the impact of agriculture on pollution and global warming is just one example of how rural people play our part in tackling climate change.

It’s no surprise after the devastating floods of last winter. Extreme weather events have doubled in the last three decades as torrential rainfall left meteorological records and communities in tatters.

This is a historic moment – public opinion is shifting rapidly with a resurgence of appreciation for the natural environment where we’ve walked, cycled and exercised during lockdown.

A moment to rebuild our economy, and reshape our country to meet the ambition of ‘Net Zero’ carbon emissions by 2050 and to level up all parts of the country. A green recovery that works for the two thirds that live outside the most urban cities and towns.

As the Leader of Cambridgeshire County Council, I am keenly aware of the need to balance economic recovery against environmental catastrophe. We are low-lying and vulnerable to sea level rise, yet far from a rural backwater, Cambridgeshire has the highest number of entrepreneurs per capita nationally, many focussed on advanced cleantech.

From Cornwall to County Durham we have decided to take a stand. We’re frustrated that climate solutions and green recovery packages to date have largely missed the rural voice. The Government’s £100bn infrastructure fund needs to support the ambitions of rural areas and the opportunities our countryside and green infrastructure can provide.

It can be hard to meet our ambitions when urban transport services don’t receive funding to reach out to remote communities or because investing in broadband for isolated areas isn’t economically viable. These examples of typical rural disadvantage combined with a funding gap in rural areas twice that of our urban counterparts, diminishing our stretched resources further.

Learning from and working with others is central to the scale and pace of change we need. That’s why 21 rural councils have joined forces with UK100 to create and launch the Countryside Climate Network for ambitious local leaders who want to do more, find solutions and achieve Net Zero goals.

Our rural communities can do more than just plant trees, we know first-hand how climate change impacts our land, food crop productivity, rainfall runoff, abundance of wildlife and rhythm of nature. From the Silicon Fen to the Scottish Highlands, we must harness our collective ingenuity.

However, rural communities face unfair barriers in trying to decarbonise. It is harder to attract funding for projects which don’t fit traditional cost benefit analyses, which favour urban concentrations yet may have less overall carbon reduction impact.

Yet there are great examples of work being done around the UK by councils in the newly established Countryside Climate Network.

Cornwall Council is developing a comprehensive Climate Change Development Plan. With support from Highways England, they are creating the Saints Trail: 30km of cycle and walking tracks to tackle traffic congestion, improve healthy travel options and dispel the myth that cars are the only option for travel in rural areas.

County Durham’s Business Energy Efficiency Project provides advice, free energy audits and grants to rural businesses, to reduce energy bills and carbon dioxide emissions.

Canterbury District Council’s support for a ‘green hydrogen’ plant, will draw electricity from offshore wind farms to create hydrogen to power clean buses.

North Yorkshire has reduced its street lighting energy consumption by investing in LED technology, reducing 4,000 tonnes of carbon emissions and saving the taxpayer £1.4m a year.

And closer to home, the Cambridgeshire village of Swaffham Prior demonstrates how a whole community can shift from oil to a renewable energy source. Thanks to a partnership between the community, my council and the Government, a planned district heating solution incorporating both a ground and air source heating solution will save costs for householders and 47,000 tonnes of carbon emissions over 40 years.

Imagine the impact if this were replicated in every village in the UK or in the 1 million households that still use oil fired central heating?

For the nation to tackle climate change and achieve Net Zero, the countryside must be at the heart of the conversation about a green recovery – before it’s too late.

Cllr Steve Count, Leader of Cambridgeshire County Council and Chair of the Countryside Climate Network

An abridged version of this comment piece appeared on the Daily Telegraph website.

Lambeth’s response to COVID-19, By Cllr. Claire Holland

Lambeth’s response to COVID-19, By Cllr. Claire Holland

It’s already become somewhat of a cliché to talk about not going back to the pre-COVID-19 world and to harness what positive changes we can to address the inequalities that existed in our world before. Not least to address the causes and unequal impact of the climate crisis, and of one of the biggest emitters – the way we move around our streets.

Yet councils like ours in Lambeth, dealing on the ground with the scale of challenge and re-thinking required by this crisis, cannot wait for clarity or funding for active travel initiatives from government. As local authorities, we are stepping up and delivering for our communities.

Already in this crisis, councils have picked up the slack – keeping essential services going, delivering food parcels for vulnerable people, filling the PPE gap left by government and supporting communities to get each other through these difficult times. In Lambeth, this has meant setting up and delivering by cargo bike food and care packages to over 8,000 people in weeks.

Reshaping our neighbourhoods

Once we had got the initial food and care response off the ground and our business support package up and running, the imperative switched to looking at designing our neighbourhoods so people can move around safely, reducing road danger and the risk of COVID-19 transmission. We know that without bold intervention, as restrictions ease, we will be seeing a catastrophic rush to motor vehicles as people stay away from public transport.

People in Lambeth are using their neighbourhoods differently in response to government regulations and health advice. Whilst we might have seen fewer cars on our streets, they were much more dangerous due to rampant speeding. The Met Police have published statistics showing compared with the same week last year, speeding offences are up by 300% this year.

In Lambeth, over 70% of our households live in flats and the majority do not own a car. What this means is that most of our residents have no outside space and are increasingly are  trying to enjoy the public space available in their local neighbourhood on roads that are totally dominated by non-local, rat-running traffic, that is going dangerously fast. This is manifestly unfair and impacts our more deprived communities disproportionately.

Our Emergency Transport Strategy

That’s why last week we were the first council in the country to launch an emergency transport plan in response to COVID-19. It aims to tackle the crisis in stages by temporarily widening pavements to enable social distancing and reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission; build safe routes for our key workers to cycle to Guys and St Thomas’ Hospital for example; make interventions in our local neighbourhoods so that we filter miles of rat-running traffic and allow local residents to use and enjoy their streets free from increased risk of danger; and construct safe routes to and from our town centres, connecting them with our residential areas so that as social distancing stays with us into the future, we are able safely to access employment and support our fantastic local businesses.

Our plan is informed by, and builds on, the ambitions we set out in our Transport Strategy last year – to create Healthy Routes (safe routes for walking and cycling) and cover Lambeth in low traffic neighbourhoods. Through the strategy, and with the projects we had been working on with TfL, such as the Brixton Liveable Neighbourhood, we are building a borough where walking and cycling becomes the mode of choice for everyone.  It is rooted in what we already know and had planned to deliver in Lambeth, but we are now doing so as an emergency because we urgently need to protect people from an explosion in motor vehicle use and the multitude of negative effects that will come along with that.

But what about the finances?

It is true local authorities face massive financial challenges, following a decade of austerity where in Lambeth, for example, we have had 56% cut in our budget from central government. The government said that we must do whatever it takes to protect residents and businesses and not to put off decisions because of money. However, the government has committed to funding less than half of the tens of millions Covid-19 is costing Lambeth. And we are yet to be guaranteed funding by government to act to protect our residents on transport. We will continue to lobby to ensure they stat true to their word. Because we agree, the approach should be whatever it takes.

But we can’t wait for that conversation with central government to play out – we must take action now. The risk of doing nothing is too great. If we don’t act, we could be left with gridlocked main roads and residential streets clogged up by rat-running traffic- creating an environment where people – particularly children and older citizens – are unable to move around their local area safely,  breathing in that toxic air.

Looking to the future 

In Lambeth, we are working with our residents and fantastic campaign groups who are sick of their roads not being safe when walking or cycling and of pollution marring their children’s walk to school. But whilst they have shown huge support for action we have taken, they rightly want us to go much further and to create significant and long-lasting changes to our environment.

And our ambition is to meet this challenge.  For us in Lambeth, we do not consider it is an option to replace one health crisis with another. The climate crisis has not gone away just because the air waves have been full of talk of the Covid-19 crisis.  We pledged to be carbon neutral by 2030 and a safe and clean transport system is key to delivering that. Whilst these problems may be national and international, the solutions are indeed local.

 

WANDSWORTH CHARGES UP THE BOROUGH, by Cllr Jonathan Cook

WANDSWORTH CHARGES UP THE BOROUGH, by Cllr Jonathan Cook

In 2018, I took charge of the electric vehicle (EV) charging points strategy to promote EV ownership in a bid to reduce our carbon emissions in the borough and prepare for the approaching future of an electrically charged Wandsworth. Fast forward to 2020 and Wandsworth Council has not only announced a climate emergency, but it has a Climate Change Action Plan to back it up with plenty more EV charging points in tow.

Improving air quality was a major theme of the action plan. A key action from the council to meet this challenge is to build on our extensive EV charging network and increase our charging points to nearly 700.

The commitment is a huge step forward in our roadmap to becoming carbon neutral by 2030 and zero carbon by 2050 and EV ownership is one of the most effective ways to reduce carbon emissions from traffic and as a bonus, its effect is immediate.

Already, many of our residents have embraced this new technology.  Up to December 2019 we received more than 1,000 requests from residents for more EV charging points. This level of requests proves that there is a high demand for EVs. According to TFL, EV ownership in London is set to increase seven-fold over the next ten years and Wandsworth is keen to get behind this transition and support the community going green.

Electric cars will be critical to the future of our nation if we want to reach our carbon emissions goals committed to in the Paris agreement. One of the major challenges of switching to an EV is the up-front costs of purchasing. While the costs of EVs are falling as the market responds to consumer demands, governments at all levels still need to find ways to make EVs accessible to residents. One of the ways we can do this is car clubs.

Car clubs are an initiative that the council has invested in heavily, to the tune of £3 million, and as a result Wandsworth has a thriving car club membership of nearly 30,000 – the largest in the country. Car clubs allow owners to hire an EV by the hour, day or week and reduces 13 private cars per club. The popularity of the car clubs is largely because they help people avoid the heavy costs around car ownership and the prevalent issue of space for parking in London. The response from the car clubs has been immensely positive and we’re looking at ways to build on the initiative.

Our Climate Change Action Plan emphasised the need for community engagement and involvement. While the council is dedicated to making changes and future-proofing our borough we acknowledge there needs to be significant collaboration and buy-in from the community to see a real impact.

Among the noteworthy actions from the plan was a pledge to spend £5 million on climate change initiatives that support the council environment and sustainability strategy, significantly increasing our tree planting program, supporting cycling infrastructure and availability of e-bikes as well, of course, increasing the borough’s EV charging network. I’m also delighted to say that council recently announced that it will be committing £20 million overall to the climate change agenda. This will continue to remain a top priority for us.

Guest Blog: The Big Clean Switch Switching with Salford

Guest Blog: The Big Clean Switch Switching with Salford

A simple way to help residents take action on climate – and save money

Has your local authority declared a climate emergency and you’re wondering what to do next? Helping your residents make decisions to decarbonise their own lives can be a big challenge. Where do you start?

Here’s where we can help you.

What’s the big idea?

We’ve developed a simple piece of code that allows residents to switch to verified green electricity tariffs directly through your council website. With average household savings of over £230 a year, it’s a great way to cut energy bills and help the environment (switching to a green energy tariff is the carbon equivalent of taking a car off the road for 8 months of the year!)

Better still, every switch will generate around £25 to help fund local environmental projects in your area.

See it action

Try the platform out for yourself on Salford City Council’s website, here: https://www.salford.gov.uk/switchandsave. You can embed the switch service anywhere on your site, but it’s particularly well suited to pages linked to utility payments – from council tax to parking vouchers – where residents may be particularly open to ways to save money.

Why Salford is doing it

Salford’s Mayor Paul Dennett says it is an important way to show leadership and help residents:  “In Salford we are absolutely committed to providing clean energy. We have more than 100 photo-voltaic solar panels on the town hall roof to help cut our bills and carbon footprint. Over 20 years the panels will save £286,000 and avoid CO2 emissions of 296 tonnes.

“We want to make it easy for residents to switch to green energy and save money so we have teamed up with the Big Clean Switch. By incorporating switching into things residents are doing anyway on the council website, we can maximise the number of people we support.”

Who is Big Clean Switch?

We’re a B Corp that works with a range of organisations, including businesses, local authorities and NGOs, to take the worry out of switching to low-cost, low-carbon energy.

We vet all the suppliers on our site to ensure that they uphold strict environmental credentials and good customer service. We also offer support over the phone and through our live chat function to help people with any questions that they have during the switching process.

Why it works

Most people think switching supplier is a hassle. Our platform allows you to take switching to them, incorporating it into interactions that are happening anyway on your website. What better time to save £230 on your energy bills than when you’ve just paid your council tax?

So if you’re looking for a quick and easy way to help your residents start to tack action on your climate emergency pledge (as well as saving them a bit of money too), contact Jon Fletcher at jon@bigcleanswitch.org.

Leicester City Council Models PM2.5

Author: Adam Clarke, Deputy Mayor Leicester City Council

Leicester is set to be the first UK city to study and model locally-based fine particulate pollution (PM2.5).  

While we wait for the response to the air quality plan we produced as a result of our DEFRA direction, we can take some confidence that Leicester is now recording the lowest levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) ever recorded. However, we know more needs to be done to improve air quality across the board; not least in our understanding and management of levels of PM2.5.

Earlier this year we were awarded almost £250,000 from the government’s Air Quality Grant scheme to monitor, map and make the public more aware of PM2.5 and how it affects our city and our health.

There is currently no requirement to monitor PM2.5, but we have the skills and knowledge in Leicester to take a lead in better understanding this pollutant and its risk to health. We also know that the Environment Bill announced in the Queen’s Speech before the General Election includes provision to set a legally binding target – so it is in our interest to act now. 

As Tim Smedley noted in his excellent book Clearing the Air – The beginning and the End of Air Pollution (Bloomsbury,2019) “comparing the PM2.5 levels in different cities is not always straightforward…The official monitoring stations are often too few in number.” Our project will look at innovative ways of gathering and communicating data. We hope that this will inform everything from policy decisions at city-scale, to behaviour change at an individual level. As a pilot project, we see the potential to develop a way of working that we can share with other cities, to make comparing more straightforward. 

Local company, EarthSense, has recently been commissioned to provide expertise and technological solutions to fulfil the aims of the project, which will see eleven Zephyr® air quality sensors installed at strategic fixed locations across the city, on electric bikes and in electric cars. 

The data collected will help build a clearer picture of where pollution originates and where in the city is most affected. We’ll be producing a high-resolution map showing Near Real Time air quality data which will show PM2.5 and other pollutants such as NO2. We’re also looking at innovative ways of making data available to residents to inform healthy choices.

Reducing roadside and other locally derived PM2.5 from sources such as wood burning stoves will result in local action, but transported pollution from outside of our constrained administrative boundary will require partnership and literally a ‘fair wind’ to reduce levels. We’re keen to use this opportunity to develop and share our learning with other cities and jurisdictions, so I look forward to discussing this exciting project more with UK100 local authorities as it develops.

Climate Emergency Budget

Author: Tom Hayes, Oxford City Council Cabinet Member for Zero Carbon Oxford

It’s time to be hopeful. After another bruising election, our country may be as divided as we’ve ever been. But Oxford City Council is putting party politics to one side to restore the feeling of belonging we’ve lost. Our climate crisis causes concern, but it’s also forcing action which can make that sense of community – so essential to happy lives – a reality once again.

During the summer a ‘mini-public’ representing Oxford’s demographics met for two weekends as part of a Citizen’s Assembly on Climate Change, the first by a UK city to learn about the issue and agree options to cut emissions. Supported by Oxford’s political parties, the Assembly did as we hoped, and ensured viewpoints and voices that often go unheard could shape decisions.

The Assembly was clear: 90% of Members drawn from all backgrounds were eager for us to become sustainable quicker than the legal target nationwide.

If you tell the public there’s a climate emergency, you have to act like there’s one. We held the Assembly within eight months of declaring a climate emergency. If you hold a Citizens’ Assembly, you must listen to what it says. 55 days on from the close of the Assembly, the Council is publishing a climate emergency budget which respects the will of the Assembly.

Our budget commits at least £18m of new investment plus £1m of new money to ensure we can make a success of this investment. This new funding aims to make an immediate impact and comes on top of £84m of ongoing measures brought into the county by the Council.

The Council accounts for 1% of Oxford’s emissions and, although we’ve slashed our emissions by 40% in four years, we want to clean 100% of our 1% footprint. We pay the Oxford Living Wage to ensure employees can be free from poverty and accept this higher staffing cost because it’s the right thing to do. Now, we will buy certified green gas and electricity and offset our remaining emissions through the planting of trees in south-east England because we must not contribute to the climate crisis.

Oxford City Council will be a net Zero Carbon Council from October 2020 and speed up reductions of any underlying emissions.

The complexity of the climate crisis was clear to the Assembly, particularly in the area of buildings which make up 81% of the city’s emissions. Work is underway to fully understand what we need to do to decarbonize buildings. This will conclude in 2020, so that next year’s budget can wisely and prudently spend public money that will reduce buildings’ emissions.

After buildings, transport is the second biggest emissions source. Responding to the Assembly, at least a quarter of the council’s vehicles will be electric by 2023 at the latest. A £40m investment, the Energy Superhub, offers an opportunity to electrify the whole fleet much faster. 400 electric vehicle chargers will power non-polluting vehicles, while our budget enables Oxford’s Zero Emissions Zone and Connecting Oxford plans to address polluted air and emissions and encourage public transport.

The Assembly believed we should increase the use of renewable energy and build up the city’s community renewable energy economy. This month, we are opening one of the country’s largest solar carports which will power Blackbird Leys pool and leisure centre.

The Assembly was confused about how recycling works, so the budget commits new funding to boost education and information, so that more households recycle effectively. It’s not just about recycling—it’s about reducing waste and re-use, so we’ll fund a zero waste festival, repair café, clothes swish, and swap shop in the summer of 2020. Waste reduction is something the community can do.

A major conclusion of the Assembly was that people must power decarbonization, so our £1.5m grants program will support community action and engage people not engaged with climate action from early 2020, just as our Assembly did. We hope communities will continue to enhance our biodiversity and, in April 2020, we will bring forward new plans to increase our tree cover.

A new youth climate board will provide for the views of young people who live, work, and study in the city, and this board will co-produce and co-host a Youth Climate Action Summit by May 2020 to shape our future work.

The Assembly believed that we need to use our position and influence to ensure all emitters play their part. We’ll fund a brand new Zero Carbon Oxford partnership, the aims of which will be decided by a major climate summit of emitters by March 2020.

The crisis is complex and makes a speedy response in some areas a complex affair. With our leadership and example, we hope to attract even more than the £84 million already invested on decarbonisation. We will do our best to alter and direct the flow of national politics on climate issues, so that Oxford is in prime position to win more funding and do more.

After a decade of national politicians telling the public to give up more and bail out the country, who can blame the public if they shrink from the question ‘What have you given up for climate change?’ When you feel exhausted, powerless, unheard, along comes Greta and Extinction Rebellion. But, with our people powered, cross-party, and socially just measures, we want to show that a better way is possible.

Our climate emergency budget is built on the shoulders of our Citizens’ Assembly. We are taking a leap forward towards a greener, kinder, and fairer city. Our hope truly is that, one day soon, the future will be better than the present, and because we work hard, we’ll make the present a bigger improvement on the past.

Our new climate emergency budget is built on the shoulders of our Assembly. With its investments, we’re building on a decade of action, moving into a year of ramped up activity, and laying the foundations for a kinder, fairer, and zero carbon city.