Raft of environmental measures to be considered to aid councils become carbon neutral by 2030

Death Valley, Solar panels

Councillors are set to consider a raft of environmental measures to help Babergh and Mid Suffolk District Councils achieve their ambition of becoming carbon neutral by 2030.

Cabinets for both councils are due to meet next month to consider the proposals – developed by a cross-party Environment and Climate Change Task Force – welcomed in a joint statement from all political group leaders.

If agreed, the proposals will form the councils’ first Carbon Reduction Management Plan, setting out how they aim to fulfil their ambitions of becoming carbon neutral within the next ten years.

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

The proposals, which are on the agenda for Babergh and Mid Suffolk’s simultaneous cabinet meeting on July 6, follow the climate emergency motions passed by both councils in 2019 and the creation of the Joint Environment and Climate Change Task Force.

The task force has taken expert advice on which areas to target first for the greatest impact – working with Groundwork Suffolk to analyse current emissions and develop recommendations.

Headline proposals 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 along with other business or academic organisations.

Elisabeth Malvisi, Babergh District Council’s cabinet member for environment, said: “These proposals, if approved, will form the blueprint of how we will tackle the environment and climate change challenge here in Babergh. It also demonstrates how we along with Mid Suffolk, are working together towards making Suffolk the greenest county.

“We want to make sure that our district remains a place we’re proud to call home, but also a destination for tourists to visit. Reducing the councils’ dependency on fossil fuels and developing sustainable travel at the heart of our town centres is a priority.

“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. However, we recognise there’s a lot more we have to do, 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: “These rightly ambitions proposals are the outcome of cross-party collaboration at both councils to explore how we, along with Babergh, aim to meet our 2030 carbon neutral ambitions. While we recognise our influence and key role in tackling climate change within the district and in Suffolk, we know 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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