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.