Small changes can make a huge difference to carbon emissions.
In 2019, like many local authorities around the country, Wiltshire Council acknowledged a climate emergency. At the same time, we agreed to become carbon neutral as an organisation by 2030, and resolved to seek to make the whole county carbon neutral.
There are significant challenges to achieving this, but I’m delighted to say we’ve made excellent progress.
As a council, we have already cut our own carbon emissions by more than 80 per cent compared with 2014/15, which represents a 68 per cent carbon reduction on 2018/19, when we declared a climate emergency.
To achieve this, we looked at all our services and where we could make savings that would add up to a big reduction in carbon emissions. For example, switching to a green energy tariff was an immediate easy win, as this ensures all energy the council uses comes from renewable sources and can be classed as zero carbon.
We’re also 95 per cent of the way through our £12 million programme to convert streetlights across the county, which has reduced energy consumption by 64 per cent, despite a growth in the number of streetlights as new developments are built.
In many ways, the same approach works for the wider county of Wiltshire, too. If people and businesses make small changes to the way they do things, they can make a huge difference in terms of carbon reduction.
That’s why we’re encouraging these small changes through our #WiltsCanDoThis social media campaign, which highlights the everyday things people can do to make a difference.
We’re also trying to embed this change into our communities – for example, through our council house retrofitting scheme.
We’re investing £50 million to retrofit all council homes to Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) rating B by 2030, which will bring a significant carbon reduction in Wiltshire. In addition, we’re embedding skills – such as installing ground source heat pumps – into the Wiltshire workforce.
These skills can then be used by the private sector and households to install their own energy-saving systems and reduce their carbon emissions, helping to bring down installation costs locally and creating a Wiltshire-wide carbon saving.
There is much more to do, however, particularly in terms of leading the whole county of Wiltshire towards becoming carbon neutral. That’s why we have set out our plans for how we will achieve this in our Climate Strategy.
The strategy focuses on seven key areas that we can influence and will shape the next five years of our plan to tackle climate change.
Of course, it’s vital that we bring our communities with us on this. We held a detailed consultation exercise last year, with residents, businesses, local groups and town and parish councils all giving us their feedback, suggestions and practical ideas to improve the strategy and to reduce emissions.
We’ll be implementing our Climate Strategy this year as we look to build on all the progress we have made so far. We have made good headway, but together we all need to do more as we work towards our carbon-neutral goals.