Agenda item

Scrutiny Review of Becoming a Carbon Neutral Council - Progress report

Report by the Director of Communities, Economy and Transport and the Chief Operating Officer.


21.1     The Director of Communities, Economy and Transport introduced the report and outlined that the report provides an update on the progress in implementing the thirty-seven recommendations that were agreed as part of the scrutiny review, which are linked to the actions detailed in the action plan in appendix 2 of the report. Work is progressing on the 37 recommendations, with 5 completed, 28 are ongoing and 4 have yet to be started. The report and appendices set out what has been achieved and the progress that has been made since the Council started work on reducing carbon emissions and outlines the use of the funding that has recently been allocated by Cabinet (appendix 3).

21.2     The Environment Team Manager summarised the background to the report. The report focusses on what the Council is doing about its own emissions and does not cover what it is doing externally on issues such as transport and waste. The Council is working towards a science-based target of reducing carbon emissions by an average of 13% per year. This target is the rate of change that is required across the County in order that it contributes towards the target of limiting climate change to less than 1.5 degrees Celsius compared with pre-industrial levels.

21.3     Organisations break down their carbon emissions into a number of categories, which for the Council includes scope 1, scope 2 and scope 3 emissions. Scope 1 and 2 emissions are those broadly from activities the Council controls directly such as the energy used to heat corporate buildings. Scope 3 emissions are from any other sources which are mainly from supplies and services the Council buys.

21.4     Work has focussed firstly on scope 1 and 2 emissions as the Council has much better data on them and has more control over them, which means there is a greater ability to achieve reductions. The work also recognises how important it is to tackle scope 3 emissions as they represent a larger proportion of the Council’s overall emissions. Although the Council is at the start of its work on scope 3 emissions, more work is being undertaken such as:

·         The work being undertaken across the Orbis Partnership to increase expertise and capacity in reducing emissions from procurement.

·         Beginning to build in specific carbon reduction requirements into the Council’s contracts, such as the Highways Maintenance contract re-procurement where the contractor will be required to reduce emissions by 13% per annum in line with the corporate target.

·         For smaller, local suppliers who may need support to meet contractual requirements to reduce emissions, the Council is offering free energy audits and energy efficiency grants over the next 18 months.

21.5     This represents a mix of measures across the Council’s supply chain in order to help them take as much action on emissions as they can. Although work has started to reduce scope 3 emissions from the supply chain, due to the scale and complexity of the supply chain it is going to take some time.

Progress against the Recommendations.

21.6     The Environment Team Manager outlined the progress against the 37 recommendations where a small number have been completed but the majority are ongoing due to the nature of the recommendations. There are some actions that will take longer deliver such as the work to reduce scope 3 emissions. New technologies, such as the use of hydrogen in heating and transport, will be incorporated into the actions as they become available.

21.7     Environment Team Manager summarised the use of the additional funding that Cabinet has made available for climate change work as detailed in appendix 3 of the report. This includes:

·         investment in additional capacity to speed up progress in reducing emissions from the Council’s buildings;

·         taking a structured approach to reducing emissions by undertaking modelling of different approaches to get to net zero; and

·         building a pipeline of future carbon reduction projects to enable the Council to be better placed to take advantage of any external funding that becomes available.

21.8     This moves the Council from a reactive to a more proactive approach and will continue to use the energy hierarchy to guide the work. This aims to:

1.    Reduce energy use first, avoiding energy use where we can;

2.    Use energy more efficiently;

3.    Install renewable sources of energy; and finally

4.    Use carbon offsetting such as tree planting, and changes to land management.

At present the Council is focussing on activities further up the hierarchy and particularly on actions to reduce energy usage.

21.9     The Environment Team Manager explained it is unlikely that the Council will achieve the 13% reduction target this year as staff return to offices and other buildings. This is due to increased energy use to heat buildings as more staff return and the requirement to ventilate them due to Covid measures, as well as increases in emissions as staff travel more. Therefore, achieving the target will be more challenging.

21.10   In terms of future scrutiny work in this area, the Environment Team Manager outlined that work will be taking place during 2022 to update the corporate Climate Emergency Action Plan, as the current plan runs from 2020-2022. The Committee may wish to be involved in the work to develop a new two-year action plan.

21.11   The Committee discussed the report. The questions and comments made by the Committee, together with the responses are summarised below.

Carbon reduction measurement and literacy training.

21.12   The Committee commented that the measures outlined in appendix 3 need to include an estimate of the carbon reduction that will be achieved in relation to the investment that is being made. The Environment Team Manager responded that carbon reduction figures can be included against each of the measures where they are known. The Committee commented that it supported carbon literacy training for Members, senior managers and staff, and the continued use of online virtual meetings.

Installation of solar panels and work with the community energy sector.

21.13   The Committee welcomed the installation of solar panels on six of the Council’s buildings and asked if a list of the buildings could be made available to the Committee. (Post meeting note: the six buildings are: County Hall, Sackville House,            Milton Grange, Hookstead, Lansdowne, and Herstmonceux School). The Committee also asked if the Council is working with community energy partnerships to promote energy efficiency measures and the use of renewable energy such as the installation of solar panels. Officers confirmed they are reviewing the lease that would cover solar PV to ensure that it can work for both the Council and third parties such as community energy groups.

Street lighting upgrade

21.14   The Committee questioned the response to recommendation 7c in the action plan and whether programming new street light units to switch off at night was accurate and perhaps this should be changed to read that they are programmed to switch off at a certain time. Officers agreed to amend the text to clarify this point. (Post meeting note: the text will be amended to read, ‘Savings were better achieved by programming the new lighting units to switch to part night lighting as they are installed and where this is approved’).

Electric Vehicle (EV) charging

21.15   The Committee noted that there is a Government initiative to have EV charging points in all new homes and asked if this changed the Council’s position regarding providing EV charging points. Officers commented that there is a plan around corporate vehicle emissions and the provision of EV charging points. However, the wider provision of EV charging facilities for the public is outside the remit of the work on the Action Plan but will be included as part of the work on the Local Transport Plan.

Future work

21.16   The Committee asked if there was a point at which the scrutiny review itself would be reviewed. It was clarified that the scrutiny review would not be reviewed as an action plan has already been set out in response to the review. Some actions will take time to complete, and timescales can be challenged where appropriate. A further update report is also due to be presented at the June Committee meeting. The Lead Member for Resources commented that he considered the corporate Climate Emergency Action Plan to be one of the best compared with other local authorities and encouraged the Committee to build upon this work. Officers also outlined that the Committee is invited to be involved in the update of the corporate Climate Emergency Action Plan.

21.17   The Committee RESOLVED to note the progress report and the agreed additional expenditure on climate change measures of £3.867m up to 2023/2024.


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