Environmental measures approved by councils to help them become carbon neutral

A host of environmental measures have been approved by Babergh and Mid Suffolk District Councils  to help them achieve their ambition of becoming carbon neutral by 2030.

The proposals were developed by a cross-party Environment and Climate Change Task Force, which were welcomed in a joint statement from all political group leaders last month.

This decision will now form the councils’ first Carbon Reduction Management Plan, setting out how they aim to fulfil their ambitions of becoming carbon neutral within the next 10 years.

These are the first steps in achieving the long term objective to reduce the councils’ current emissions of approximately 5,452 metric tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) per year, looking into how best to invest in order to reduce this to net zero.

The plan follows the climate emergency motions passed by both councils in 2019 and the creation of the Joint Environment and Climate Change Task Force.

In forming the proposals, the task force took expert advice on which areas to target first for the greatest impact – working with Groundwork Suffolk to analyse current emissions and develop recommendations.

Headline actions include:

  • Exploring the use of the councils’ owned or controlled commercial estates, for renewable energy generation schemes, solar ports and battery storage;
  • Working with the councils’ leisure providers to move towards both green tariff energy, and the buildings becoming less energy intensive to operate;
  • Transitioning existing diesel-powered waste and fleet vehicles to a more sustainable fuel source such as waste vegetable oil, with a longer term ambition with partners to introduce electric or hydrogen fuelled vehicles;
  • Identifying further efficiencies and opportunities for waste collections in line with the Government’s anticipated Environment Bill;
  • Introducing an electric vehicle charging plan, co-operatively with our wider partners, to explore opportunities for expanding EV charging infrastructure in the districts;
  • Actively encouraging a digital-first culture at the councils and exploring incentives to reduce staff mileage;
  • Increasing tree and hedgerow planting and coverage across the district;
  • Ensuring new and current council housing is as efficient and environmentally friendly as possible, whilst also working more proactively with private housing developers to build sustainable communities;
  • Working with partners to improve the infrastructure necessary to increase sustainable travel in our key towns and beyond;
  • Continue to work on Suffolk-wide initiatives with our partner authorities through the Suffolk Climate Change Partnership and Suffolk Waste Partnership as well as with other business and academic organisations

Elisabeth Malvisi, Babergh District Council’s cabinet member for environment, said: “These actions form the plan of how we will tackle the environment and climate change challenge here in Babergh, they demonstrate our commitment to working together with partners towards making Suffolk the greenest county. Making sure our district remains a place we’re proud to call home, but also a destination for tourists to visit is so important. Developing sustainable travel at the heart of our town centres, and reducing the councils’ dependency on fossil fuels are top priorities for us.

“We’re not starting from scratch – we already play a key role in several environmental partnerships and initiatives including Tree for Life, the Suffolk Climate Change and Suffolk Waste Partnerships, and offering paperless billing to all our residents, but these proposals will help us take our next steps in tackling climate change.”

Jessica Fleming, Mid Suffolk District Council’s cabinet member for environment, said: “I’m delighted we’ve approved our blueprint today, which is the outcome of cross-party collaboration at both councils to look at how we, along with Babergh, aim to meet our 2030 carbon neutral ambitions. We recognise the influence and key role we play in tackling climate change within the district and in Suffolk, but we cannot do it alone. We will be working with the Government to deliver its 25-year Environment Plan, and make best use of the powers and resources available to local authorities to achieve a truly sustainable future for the country.

“We also want our residents to get involved, with everyone able to take at least small steps to becoming more environmentally conscious, such as only buying what you need, wasting less, and cycling and walking more.”

The councils will continue to work with partners across the county and region, including the LEP and public sector leaders, towards the Suffolk-wide ambition to be carbon neutral by 2030.  This work will include supporting town and parish councils with their own aspirations to reduce their carbon emissions.

Residents are also being asked to reflect on how they can play their part in reducing Suffolk’s carbon footprint, whether it’s by reducing their food waste and waste in general, taking part in initiatives such as Refill Suffolk, or getting their recycling right; with a carbon footprint calculator available on the Green Suffolk website.

A subgroup of the task force has also been created to look at how the councils can strengthen biodiversity in the districts – with work now underway following an initial delay, due to the emergency response required by the councils to support communities through the immediate impact of COVID-19.

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