Report by the Director of Communities, Economy and Transport.
17.1 The Director of Communities, Economy and Transport introduced report. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report stated that far reaching changes will happen unless we tackle climate change. The public are becoming more concerned about environmental issues and in particular climate change. Most local authorities in the South East have declared a climate emergency. It is important to set out the actions the Council is going to take to become carbon neutral. The Council has a good track record in putting in place measures to reduce our carbon footprint and working in partnership with others to bring about change. It is recommended that the Committee recommend Council agree the combined motion in paragraph 3.1 of the report.
17.2 Councillor Bennett as proposer of the Conservative Group Motion outlined that the Motion emanates from a Notice of Motion that was made at the Local Government Association (LGA) conference which received cross party support. He confirmed that he is happy with the principle of a joint motion as this not a political issue and there is a responsibility to work together on this issue. He added that there is also a report going to the Lead Member for Resources meeting that will enable the Council to procure electricity from renewable sources.
17.3 Councillor Godfrey Daniel speaking on behalf of the proposer of the Labour Group Motion commented that it is good to work together on this issue. The only minor disagreement between the two Motions is on the target date of 2050 rather than 2030. The Labour Group would like the target reviewed to an earlier date if possible, but recognise that this may be challenging given the current level of information and funding.
17.4 The Director of Communities, Economy and Transport outlined that overall the proportion of greenhouse gases is increasing. The IPPC report has given 12 years in which to make the necessary changes. So the pace of change will be crucial and a step change like this will have its challenges. However, tackling climate change is the right thing for the Council to be doing.
17.5 The Committee discussed the report and made a number of comments on the contents of the report.
17.6 The Committee asked for clarification whether other greenhouse gases as well as CO2 are included in the Council’s work on climate change. The Director of Communities, Economy and Transport responded there are some issues, which are outside of ESCC’s control which will need to be tackled through regulatory control or other legislation. Where the issue is within ESCC’s control then action can be taken by the Council. For example, ESCC has moved away from landfill to dispose of domestic waste which is an emitter of methane gas. Transport is an overall emitter of greenhouse gases and the Council can reflect this in Transport policies.
17.7 It was clarified that the Council will develop an action plan to tackle climate change and this will include issues such as transport and other greenhouse gas emissions. The Council is also in the process of refreshing the Environmental Strategy with its partners, through the work of the Environment Board, which will address climate change and other environmental issues in East Sussex.
17.8 The Committee discussed the target date for achieving carbon neutrality and noted that most of the District and Borough Councils in East Sussex have agreed a 2030 target date. The Committee expressed the view that it would like an earlier target date if possible. The Committee discussed whether it would be possible to add the wording “or earlier if possible” or other similar wording to item (iii) of the joint Motion.
17.9 Councillor Bennett commented that the Motion is about setting out the overall corporate ambition to tackle climate change. In principle he is comfortable working towards an earlier date for carbon neutrality if that is possible, but would like some time to consider and reflect on the implications to be sure that this is achievable. He suggested a revised wording of the joint Motion could be agreed between Conservative and Labour Groups before the Motion is debated at Council.
17.10 In the interim, Councillor Godfrey Daniel proposed that the wording of item (vi) of the joint Motion be amended by adding the wording “and will consider whether the target date remains appropriate” at the end of the current text. Councillor Bennett and the Director of Communities, Economy and Transport indicated that they would be happy to revise the wording of the joint Motion in this way. The Director of Communities, Economy and Transport added that how quickly the Council is going to able to achieve carbon neutrality will depend on national policy changes and it is likely that a lot will be happening in this area. The Committee agreed the revised wording of the Motion.
17.11 The Committee discussed the scope of a potential scrutiny review of climate change. It was noted that the Committee has established a scoping board comprised of Councillors John Barnes, Bob Bowdler, Martin Clarke and Stephen Shing to examine this issue. It was agreed that the scoping board would consider the scope of any scrutiny review work in this area.
17.12 The Committee RESOLVED to:
1) Agree that the principles of the Motions as set out in paragraphs 1.1 and 1.2 of the report are supported;
2) Agree to recommend the County Council agree the adoption of the Motion set out in paragraph 3.1 of the report with the addition of the wording in paragraph 17.10; and
3) Refer the scoping of any scrutiny review work on Climate Change to the Scoping Board established by the Committee.
(Post Meeting Note: Following discussion after the meeting it was agreed to amend item (iii) of the joint Motion to read “will set a target of achieving carbon neutrality from its activities as soon as possible and in any event by 2050, in line with the new target for the UK agreed by Parliament in 2019” instead of amending item (vi) as outlined in paragraph 17.10).