New West Suffolk environment and climate change task force due for green light

A new task force with ambitious aims to find practical solutions to tackle climate change and environmental issues in West Suffolk could be given the green light.

Council leader John Griffiths, made the announcement that two task forces would be set up during his first speech of West Suffolk Council’s inaugural general meeting in May.

Already the council has set up the Rural Task Force and now the draft terms of reference are due to be recommended for approval for the West Suffolk Environment and Climate Change Task Force.

West Suffolk Council Cabinet will discuss the task force and what it will focus on at its next meeting on July 23. This includes various proposals from practical solutions, use of investment and looking what actions the council would have to take to be net-zero carbon by 2030.

A significant amount of West Suffolk Council’s activities already actively protect and enhance the environment. It has one of the largest solar farms of its kind in the UK and up to the end of last year the Community Energy Plan (CEP) alone has invested £1.48 million into renewable energy projects across West Suffolk.

The council is delivering a strong pipeline of roof mounted solar PV installation projects, including working with local businesses, generating carbon dioxide savings of around 1,000 tonnes.

However, a number of recent reports and events have highlighted the importance of considering further measures to enhance environmental stewardship, not least in the area of carbon emissions and climate change. This includes the recent government target of net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

Councillor Griffiths said: “I think pretty well everyone can agree about the need to reduce harmful impacts on our environment and we all need to take further steps to do this. Indeed the Local Government Association has said it will help and support councils to do more. The task force I have proposed will make sure we continue to play our part.

“I have been very clear that this must not be just words, but must be looked at using the latest evidence so that we can take further meaningful and achievable action that will make a real difference. To make sure we are as effective as we can be, we have to understand what will work, what is achievable, how much it will cost and how soon we can implement it. This effects everyone which is why the task force will be cross party and report to Cabinet so their findings can be looked at as quickly as possible.

“West Suffolk already has a good reputation for protecting the environment and reducing our impact on climate change. We have for example the largest solar farm of its kind in the UK and are a national leader in helping businesses reduce their impact by installing solar panels on their roofs as well as on our own premises. The steps we have taken have had a purpose, been practical and have had meaningful benefits. The task force, I am sure, will build on this excellent work and I hope councillors will back it.”

The task force will gather and review evidence, appraise options and make its first report back to Cabinet in autumn 2019. Given the extent of the work it will undertake, a further report is expected in early 2020.

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