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Cornwall Council marks a year of action since declaring climate emergency

Cornwall Council is becoming a leading local authority on tackling climate change as it marks a year since declaring a climate emergency and summarises its key achievements in helping Cornwall cut its carbon emissions.

On 22 January 2019 Cornwall Council was among the country’s first local authorities to make the climate emergency declaration which included a call to Westminster to provide the powers and resources necessary to achieve the target for Cornwall to strive towards becoming carbon neutral by 2030.

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Since then the Council has produced a climate change action plan with more than 120 aims; planted the first trees of its flagship climate emergency project the Forest for Cornwall; engaged 3,000 residents on what they think should be the Council’s climate change priorities and adopted a new decision-making framework to ensure environmental factors and social benefits are considered in planning all major projects across the Council. 

Yesterday (January 21, 2020) Cornwall Council Leader Councillor Julian German summarised the main achievements of its Carbon Neutral Cornwall programme to date in his Leader’s Announcements speech at full council:

  • At least 50,000 trees have been planted as part of the first phase of the 8,000-hectare Forest for Cornwall, the Council’s flagship natural climate solution project, with help from key partners, in particular the Woodland Trust, schools and communities. The Woodland Trust has praised Cornwall Council for having the ambition to create a woodland for the benefit of people, wildlife and the climate.
  • Cornwall Council has met with town and parish councils and other key organisations to help shape the initial scoping of a Climate Change Development Plan Document, or DPD, which will provide policy for requiring future development in Cornwall to be more energy efficient, promote the use of renewables, and managing coastal change and flood areas.
  • The Whole House Retrofit innovation project has been developed to pilot improvements to 83 existing Council owned social housing homes to make them more energy efficient. Work will start on the first homes in April, using innovative solutions to help reduce running costs by at least 20% and emissions by 80%.
  • The Council’s new decision-making wheel has been introduced to ensure all key decisions take into account social, economic and environmental impacts and can ensure that people aren’t negatively impacted. Every service across the Council recognises their role in responding to the climate emergency and is building the decision wheel into their service plans.
  • A £23 million pilot scheme will support new bus subsidies and reduce bus fares, which will be introduced this year, and the new multi-modal hub at St Erth is now helping more people to be able to use public transport in Cornwall.
  • Council investment in renewable energy has enabled wells to be drilled at United Downs to explore Cornwall’s deep geothermal heat resource and work to begin on developing a wind turbine project at Ventonteague off the A30.

Cllr German said: “Having heard last week that the last decade was the hottest on record, it is timely that last January, here in the Council Chamber, we declared a climate emergency and only six months later Cabinet unanimously approved our own ambitious Climate Change Action Plan, with over 120 key actions. It’s been a busy year with many achievements and there are more planned for the coming year.

“Our work on progressing this agenda at pace and our achievements have placed us as a leading local authority on tackling climate change and many other councils and partners have approached us about our action plan and our decision-making wheel.

“I hope you agree with me that we have made great progress in a year; and there is a lot more work planned for us to do ourselves and with others next year and beyond, to unlock Cornwall’s potential to become carbon neutral.”

Cllr German highlighted the Council’s three key asks of Government to support the Carbon Neutral Cornwall programme including the financial and training requirements needed to undertake the mass housing retrofit of all Cornwall’s housing stock; a faster transition towards the Future Homes building regulations standard; and strategic investment in the South West’s grid to ensure vital electricity grid upgrades.

Councillor Edwina Hannaford, Cornwall’s Cabinet Member for climate change and neighbourhoods, said: “We’re celebrating the anniversary of Cornwall’s historic moment in declaring a climate emergency and we are proud of the key achievements we’ve had over the last year to start our ambitious journey towards helping Cornwall become carbon neutral by 2030.

“We’re making headway on  our Whole House Retrofit innovation project; working hard for the Forest for Cornwall putting landowners in touch with organisations with trees, and volunteers who want to help plant them; and aligning key strategies, including the 50:50 Future Cornwall Strategy, Local Industrial Strategy and Council Farms Strategy to incorporate a climate change focus with clean growth.

“We are piloting anaerobic digestion on our County Farms, alongside working with farmers to enable sustainable farming to increase carbon sequestration. We are collaborating with health colleagues to help manage the public sector carbon footprint, and understand and mitigate the impact of climate change related health risks. We have teamed up with the Eden Project, encouraging everyone to pledge to ‘Make the Change’ using the practical ideas in their carbon reducing tips for greener living.

“Cornwall Council produces about 1.5 per cent of the carbon emissions output in Cornwall while Cornwall as a whole contributes to the other 98.5 per cent. We have a leadership role but we have to take climate action in partnership with all our residents, businesses and communities.” 

Story posted on 22 January