Council is taking action to fulfil net zero carbon pledge
- Credit: PA
There's been a lot of news about the Cop26 conference over the past week and people are increasingly asking what is being done locally.
Leading up to the conference, I was delighted to represent Devon County Council on Radio Devon's ground-breaking carbon zero radio show.
Then, just last week, I recorded a Question Time-type programme for the same station in front of an audience of young people at Exeter College.
Earlier this year, after the voters of Devon gave us a further four years in charge of the county council, my colleague Andrea Davis became Devon County Council’s first Cabinet member for climate change.
Since then we've been keen to explain why we need to take action and what we are doing.
This is because we have to take the vast majority of people with us if we are going to have meaningful change and we believe the more information people have, the more they realise how fundamental those changes will have to be.
The county council has been instrumental in setting up a Citizen's Panel on Climate Change. It involved 70 people, chosen to reflect the make-up of our residents in Devon. They had the opportunity to quiz experts and have come up with a set of proposals for how we cut our carbon emissions.
One of their recommendations was that the council communicate the issues more fully because they found the more they studied the problem, the more they realised how big the emergency is.
Over the next few months there’ll be a consultation on their recommendations.
In the meantime the county council is taking action because there really is no time to lose, although we have been working on this for some years.
We have already cut our carbon emissions by half since 2012. The council declared a climate emergency in 2019 and committed to becoming net zero carbon by 2030 - and that includes our supply chain.
We recognise that we will still be emitting carbon in 2030 but our pledge means we will be offsetting those emissions by sucking an equal amount of carbon out of the air. We’ve already bought 28 acres of land to plant trees and absorb carbon.
By the end of next year we will have installed 220 electric vehicle charging points across Devon to provide fast-charging, convenient facilities and the council’s installing charging points on our main properties for staff and visitors – the points at County Hall will be powered by a solar canopy to add to the panels we’ve already installed on the roof.
We’ve almost completed converting all our 79,000 street lights to LEDs. That both cuts emissions and saves us money on power.
Half of our vehicle fleet will be powered by electricity by 2030. It’s half because we want to convert the vehicles as they come to the end of their life - that’s because the carbon required to build a new vehicle is equivalent to the emissions created by driving 100,000 miles and, also, electric versions of our larger, passenger vehicles are unlikely to be available on that timescale.
We’ve got a programme to retro-fit our buildings to cut emissions and we’ve allocated £1 million a year in capital spending and £150,000 in revenue to support these actions.
We’re also supporting new, community companies to produce local, renewable electricity and plough back the profits into local projects.
And we’ve set up a Green Innovation Fund to support clean growth projects that boost Devon’s economy and drive green innovation.
This won’t be enough for some people and too much for others. But we definitely aren’t complacent.