Agenda item

Climate change emergency

Report of the Cabinet Member for Environment on declaring a climate emergency.

Decision:

Decision

 

1.            Cabinet recommends to Council that South Kesteven District Council declares a ‘climate emergency’

 

2.            In response to this, Cabinet recommends that Council:

 

a.    Confirms the political ambition to reduce the organisation’s carbon footprint by 2030 and to become net-zero carbon by 2050. This encompasses the Council’s wholly owned companies

 

b.    Recognises the importance of the much more far-reaching impact of the Council’s community leadership role to reduce South Kesteven’s carbon footprint (e.g. residents, businesses, other public sector organisations, visitors/commuters, etc.)

 

c.    Requests the Interim Chief Executive to establish a ‘Climate Change Action’ task and finish group to

 

                                          i.    Identify how the Council’s activities can work towards being net-zero carbon

                                        ii.    Consider the latest climate science and expert advice on solutions

                                       iii.    Consider systematically the climate change impact of each area of the Council’s activities

                                       iv.    Establish any budgetary implications

                                        v.    Liaise with the Environment Overview and Scrutiny Committee and report initial findings to the Environment Overview and Scrutiny Committee in spring 2020

 

d.    Allocate up to £50,000 to enable external advice and the recruitment of a Climate Change Officer with the agreement of the Environment Overview and Scrutiny Committee, to drive forward the Council’s ambition to be net-zero carbon

 

Reasons for decision

 

1.            Report of the Cabinet Member for Commercial and Operations on declaring a climate emergency

2.            The Paris Climate Change Agreement to combat climate change and accelerate and intensify the actions and investments needed for a sustainable low carbon future of which the UK was a signatory

3.            The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Special Report: ‘Global Warming of 1.5 degree Celsius’ published in October 2018

4.            The report of the government advisory body, the Committee on Climate Change, which was published in May 2019 and the response to that report by the Government and local councils

5.            The impact of extreme weather events (heat waves, flooding and snow) on Council services

6.            Net-zero carbon means balancing carbon dioxide emissions with the removal/sequestering of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere; it is reliant on reducing carbon emissions and carbon off-setting

7.            Delivery of a net-zero carbon position would have financial implications for the authority

8.            Where the Council was undertaking growth or development schemes, sustainability and a commitment to reduce the Council’s carbon footprint would be embedded

9.            The Council would undertake robust business cases for all new development and major refurbishment projects to consider their environmental impact

10.         A schedule of planned improvements in relation to housing and the Council’s housing stock

11.         Identification of the main areas of carbon use in respect of commercial and operations, opportunities to use technology to offset that impact and current limitations to that technology

12.         Opportunities to design services to enable more environmentally-friends customer access channels and delivery mechanisms as well as the way the organisation utilises and deploys corporate resources

13.         Opportunities to influence the providers of external services and the Council’s wider supply chain of goods and services to reduce their carbon footprint as much as possible

14.         A climate change workshop of the Environment Overview and Scrutiny Committee held on 30 June 2019

 

Other options considered and rejected

 

The Council could decide to take no action but it is proposed that a tipping point has been reached where inaction is no longer tenable. Alternatively, the organisation could take more aggressive action – in line with some councils – and declare that the authority will be net-zero carbon by 2030, however, without significantly more work it is not possible to accurately gauge the practicalities, implications and costs of this commitment.

 

Minutes:

The Cabinet Member, Commercial and Operations presented his report on declaring a climate emergency and the recommendations within the report. He referred to work that was already being undertaken by the Environment Overview and Scrutiny Committee and other aspects of the council’s operations, stating that he believed that the time was right to make a statement with some meaning behind it. In presenting the recommendations, reference was made to the council’s responsibility to reduce its own carbon impact as well as its community leadership role. The Cabinet Member for Commercial and Operations stated that there was no precise definition of a climate emergency, however it was recognised as a situation where immediate action was required to mitigate carbon impact beyond government targets. He concluded by saying that the report was about the whole of the Council and how everything it did should be influenced by this ambition.

 

Other Cabinet members reiterated the importance of the Council’s community leadership role and referred to the actions being taken by other bodies, with specific reference being made to the Local Government Association and Lincolnshire County Council. When the matter had been considered by Lincolnshire County Council, it had been suggested that it should aim to achieve a net-zero carbon position by 2030 however the infrastructure was not in place to support this target. It was noted that some of the easiest savings would be achieved early in the programme and that to get to the ultimate target departments would need to ensure a co-ordinated approach was taken.

 

A suggested amendment was made to the wording of recommendation 2(d), which would see a funding commitment of up to £50,000 to enable external advice and the recruitment of a Climate Change Officer, with the agreement of the Environment Overview and Scrutiny Committee, to drive forward the Council’s ambition to be net-zero carbon. The Cabinet Member, Commercial and Operations agreed to incorporate the revised wording within his proposal.

 

A non-Cabinet member stated that he did not feel that the targets within the report were sufficiently ambitious, favouring a target to achieve a net-zero carbon position by 2030. Reference was made to the proportion of councils that had already agreed to declare a climate emergency and to take action to reduce their carbon footprint. Cabinet members felt a measured approach was more beneficial; the formation of the working group would identify the Council’s current position and help understand how the agenda could be driven forward. Cabinet members distinguished the actions being taken by South Kesteven District Council because of the budgetary provision it was making to resource achieving a net-zero carbon position. The Environment Overview and Scrutiny Committee was considered a key body for driving forward the climate agenda on behalf of the Council.

 

A question was raised about the membership of the proposed working group. The Cabinet Member for Commercial and Operations stated that the Chief Executive would form the task and finish group and it was the ambition of Cabinet members that it would seek to engage any member who wanted to be involved in the process. It was also hoped that the task and finish group and the Environment Overview and Scrutiny Committee would look to see what actions had been taken by other Councils.

 

It was proposed, seconded and AGREED:

 

1.            Cabinet recommends to Council that South Kesteven District Council declares a ‘climate emergency’

 

2.            In response to this, Cabinet recommends that Council:

 

a.    Confirms the political ambition to reduce the organisation’s carbon footprint by 2030 and to become net-zero carbon by 2050. This encompasses the Council’s wholly owned companies

 

b.    Recognises the importance of the much more far-reaching impact of the Council’s community leadership role to reduce South Kesteven’s carbon footprint (e.g. residents, businesses, other public sector organisations, visitors/commuters, etc.)

 

c.    Requests the Interim Chief Executive to establish a ‘Climate Change Action’ task and finish group to

 

                                          i.    Identify how the Council’s activities can work towards being net-zero carbon

                                        ii.    Consider the latest climate science and expert advice on solutions

                                       iii.    Consider systematically the climate change impact of each area of the Council’s activities

                                       iv.    Establish any budgetary implications

                                        v.    Liaise with the Environment Overview and Scrutiny Committee and report initial findings to the Environment Overview and Scrutiny Committee in spring 2020

 

d.    Allocate up to £50,000 to enable external advice and the recruitment of a Climate Change Officer with the agreement of the Environment Overview and Scrutiny Committee, to drive forward the Council’s ambition to be net-zero carbon

Supporting documents: