Going greener

From changing planning processes to planting more trees, councils can make a real difference when it comes to tackling climate change

I am proud that Cornwall Council has one of the country’s most detailed action plans to reduce the impact of climate change and help Cornwall become carbon neutral by 2030. Carbon Neutral Cornwall lays out operational projects to cut emissions in areas that we can control; facilitation schemes where we can influence and enable communities, businesses, schools, public sector partners, the voluntary sector and others in Cornwall to take positive actions; and a raft of regional and national objectives, including our calls on Westminster to give us more powers and funding to help us meet our aims.

One area under our direct control, and where we can make the biggest impact, is through our decision making. Cornwall Council is the first local authority in the country to use an innovative decision-making tool based on the ‘doughnut economics’ theory pioneered by the economist Kate Raworth.

This tool enables us to weigh up environmental factors such as greenhouse gas emissions, air pollution and renewable energy with social needs such as health, education and connectivity. We are now using this systems leadership framework in planning all major projects across the council, and other authorities are asking us to share our expertise with them in producing their climate change plans.

As a facilitator, we are funding some major projects to reduce the impact of the climate emergency. We have planted the first trees of our 8,000-hectare Forest for Cornwall across multiple locations (pictured), aiming to capture 38,000 tons of carbon dioxide a year, or one per cent of Cornwall’s current greenhouse gas emissions.

“One area where we can make the biggest impact is through our decision making”

Early in 2020, we will pilot a government-supported £4.2 million whole house retrofit project to improve energy efficiency in Cornwall Council homes – which will not only save carbon but also lower heating bills and help reduce fuel poverty for residents on low incomes.

Through our policies, we are tackling the climate emergency by designing a new climate change planning document to strengthen our existing policies in our Local Plan. The initiative will set out new guidance to promote renewable energy, environmental growth and energy-efficient homes, increasing employment opportunities and generating more of our own energy.

This plan informs our policy to stop providing gas as a source of energy in all our new homes, delivering on a government pledge five years ahead of the national target.

Regionally, we are influencing the climate change agenda through our local industrial strategy, which has a clean growth focus. We have supported two Cornwall schools environmental conferences where our young people have come together to discuss action needed by everyone to reduce global warming. 

At a national level, we have partnered with West Midlands Combined Authority to pilot energy innovation zones and secured £23.5 million of government funding for a pilot scheme to reduce bus fares.

I was able to share our ambition to become carbon neutral with other local authorities across the country at a recent LGA Leadership Essentials session. I came away fired up and armed with even more useful information, facts and ideas to tackle climate change for Cornwall.

The LGA’s climate emergency conference is on 22 January in London – see www.local.gov.uk/events. Our next Climate Emergency Leadership Essentials Course starts on 29 February, in Maidenhead – see www.local.gov.uk/highlighting-political-leadership/leadership-essentials. Visit our climate change hub at www.local.gov.uk/our-support/climate-change

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