To consider an update from the Cabinet in respect of the authority’s response to the Climate Emergency.
Consideration was given to a report that provided a progress report of the Council’s actions in respect to Responding to the Climate Change Emergency.
The Cabinet Member for Cleaner, Greener Communities, Councillor Allen in moving the report noted that following the Council declaration of a Climate Emergency at its meeting on 30 October 2019 (Council Minute No.271), work had been undertaken to produce a draft policy document “Rotherham Council Responding to the Climate Emergency”, that set out the Council’s commitment to tackle climate emergency. The draft policy document was attached as an appendix to the officer’s report.
Councillor Allen advised that a Member Working Group had been established to consider the Council’s response to the climate emergency and to propose a target for the Council’s carbon reduction. As a result of this work it was proposed that the Council’s carbon emissions should be at net zero by 2030 and Borough-wide carbon emissions should be at net zero by 2040. The Cabinet Member noted that the draft policy document, due to the constant improvement and development of technology in this area was a living document, and as such would be subject to amendment over time.
Councillor Allen advised that work to deliver on the proposed targets would be approached by themes of activity supported by a set of actions for 2020/21 and that it was proposed that the Member Working Group would continue to develop the policy and actions for future years to meet the target outcomes. A full action plan of activity was attached as an appendix to the officer’s report. Actions for 2020/21 included:
· Producing carbon impact assessments for all significant Cabinet decisions
· Addressing gaps in data collection regarding CO2 emissions
· Exploring the feasibility of renewable energy self-generation
· Committing to requiring efficiency standards for private housing developers that were in line with net zero targets
· Carrying out assessments of the Council's operational buildings to determine feasible energy efficiency upgrades
· Developing a timeline for Electric vehicle fleet conversion
· Developing awareness training for the Council’s work force around energy use behaviours
· Promoting sustainable transport across the workforce
· Strengthening South Yorkshire partnership commitments to reduce emissions associated with waste
· Completing energy efficiency improvements to street lighting.
Councillor Allen advised that to deliver on the proposed targets engagement with staff, residents and partners would be essential and that the working group would be looking for both staff and members to become Climate Change Champions.
Councillor Roche in seconding the report thanked Councillor Allen, the working group and officers for their work in getting to the current point so quickly. Councillor Roche stressed the urgency of the situation and the importance of driving the activities forward that would enable the Council to meet its targets for net zero carbon emissions.
Councillor Steele, as Chair of the Overview and Scrutiny Management Board welcomed the report, noting that the Board had endorsed the report and its recommendations at its meeting in March 2020. Councillor Steele welcomed the tree planting policy and noted that the Covid-19 pandemic would mean changes to everyone’s lives, but that some of these changes, such as cycling more would have a positive impact on the environment.
Councillor Walsh noted his support for the report and stated that it was fitting that Rotherham as a Borough and its legacy of heavy and polluting industry should take a leading role in moving to a greener future. Councillor Walsh welcomed the pragmatic and specific short-term actions and objectives as well as the broad direction of future activities that would be able to respond to green technological advances. Councillor Sheppard noted the positive experience of being part of the working group and advised that while the pandemic had caused economic harm that it had also shown that different, lower carbon ways of working were possible and should be carried on into the future.
Councillor Carter welcomed the report as a positive first step for the Council but noted that for real change to happen specific and targeted policies needed to be developed and implemented in order to enable significant reductions in carbon emissions in the Borough. Councillor Carter also queried whether the Council had sufficient expertise to deliver on its green objectives or whether external resources would need to be brought in. Councillor Napper in supporting the report noted that tree planting activity on Council land should be as high as possible and that the Council should fully investigate the potential for using the rivers in the Borough to generate hydroelectric power.
In responding to the debate Councillor Allen thanked members for their support of the report and encouraged all of those who had spoken in support to get involved with the working group and the development of the policies that would help the Council reach its environmental targets. Councillor Allen also assured Councillor Carter that the Council did have the expertise in-house to deliver on the required actions.
That the report in respect of responding to the Climate Emergency be noted.
Mover: Councillor Allen Seconder: Councillor Roche