Agenda item

Climate Emergency Annual Report 2023 - 2024

To receive a report of the Strategic Director of Regeneration and Environment outlining progress towards the updated Climate Emergency Action Plan reported for the 2023/2024 period. Also included is a summary of climate change data, for greenhouse gas emissions from Council operations April 2020 – March 2023 and across the Borough of Rotherham, 2005 – 2021. Local area emissions data are published two years in arrears by the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero.


This report was approved at the Cabinet meeting held on 18 February 2024.




That Overview and Scrutiny Management Board:


1.             Notes Cabinet’s approval of the Climate Change Action Plan in Appendix 2, noting the key achievements and opportunities summarised in Appendix 1 and section 2 of this report.

2.             Consider the report and action plan and determine if there are any additional recommendations arising from the matters herein.


The Chair invited Councillor Denise Lelliott, the Cabinet Member for Jobs and the Local Economy to the meeting. Paul Woodcock, Strategic Director for Regeneration and Environment and Louise Preston, the Climate Change Manager, were also in attendance.


The report referred to activity undertaken in the period 2023-24. The Cabinet Member acknowledged the progress made since the Council declared a climate emergency in 201. She thanked the Strategic Director and Climate Change Manager for their work and progress made.


On 30th October 2019, the Council declared a Climate Emergency and set out its action plan covering the following seven policy themes of Monitoring and Measurement; Energy; Housing; Transport; Waste; Built and Natural Environment; and Influence and Engagement.


At its meeting on 23rd March 2020, Cabinet resolved to establish the targets of:

·       The Council’s carbon emissions to be at net zero by 2030 (NZ30)

·       Borough-wide carbon emissions to be at net zero by 2040 (NZ40)


A Climate Emergency Action Plan was established, and the report outlined its progress towards the updated Climate Emergency Action Plan reported for the 2023/2024 period. 


The Strategic Director outlined that the report was a summary of activity and also detailed an action plan for 2024-25. The report detailed activities around key themes, with the main contributors to carbon emissions for the Council being buildings (including housing stock) and transport.  It was noted that a new theme of ‘adaptations’ had been added this year, examples of which were the decarbonisations of 55 Council office buildings and the ongoing success of the ECO4-flex scheme was cited, through which people living in fuel poverty may access energy performance upgrades to their homes. The report had been submitted to a previous meeting of Cabinet.


The Chair thanked the Strategic Director for his work with the Council over many years and wished him well for the future. The Cabinet Member joined the Chair, in thanking Paul for his leadership, guidance and achievements.


The Chair invited questions from the Board and a discussion on the following issues ensued.


·       The role of local government in reaching net zero targets was noted and initiatives such as the installation of more energy efficient boilers were welcomed. However, why had the Council adopted the target of 2030 to reduce its carbon emission to net zero which was 20 years before the Government’s 2050 target? By doing this, was the Council investing in non-tangible projects which may not provide value for money rather than taking longer? Clarification was sought if these efforts would make difference to climate change.


·       The Cabinet Member asked which projects the Member was referring to in order that a response could be given. She referred to the phrase “think local, act global”; as it was in everyone’s interest to work towards a sustainable environment for future generation and action was needed to address climate emergencies now. It would be a dereliction of duty to “kick this into the long grass”. She commented on those countries in the developing world which were suffering from the impact of climate change; be it plastic pollution or wildlife and habitat depletion, and the need for all countries to act.


·       Further clarification was sought on what evidence was there that the Council’s 2030 target would benefit climate change compared to 2040 or 2050. The Member also referred to climate team staff providing training on single-use plastics and if this should be delivered by managers. He asked for the number of staff in the team.


·       In respect of the question about the evidential base that 2030 target would reduce the Council’s carbon impact, the Strategic Director referred to the Cabinet Member’s earlier response, by controlling things locally the Council could exercise its influence. It was noted that partners from both the public and private sectors had pledge to work towards reducing carbon emissions. The Climate Change Manager noted that the Council contributed 2% of total emissions in the Borough. However, the work to get to net zero was substantial, including decarbonisation of buildings and improvements to transportation system and how local people adapt to these changes.


·       It was clarified that the climate team was a small team of three staff. The work of its manager was detailed in the report and action plan, including work with children and young people and the provision of training on carbon literacy. The Cabinet Member reiterated that the carbon literacy training was a specialist subject matter, requiring expert input. She clarified that it was not just focussed on single-use plastic but rather the impact of climate change and what mitigations should be made. She challenged the Member to undergo the training. She also referred to the Council’s target to reduce its carbon emissions to net zero by 2030 resulted from a motion to Council which was democratically agreed.


·       The work with children and young people was welcomed, including the Youth Cabinet and projects linked to the Children’s Capital of Culture. It was noted that there was an ongoing commitment to engage with children and young people.


·       The importance of councils acting early to address the climate emergency was supported. A view was expressed that there should be greater investment in this area with additional staffing resources. The strategy was welcomed as comprehensive; however, it was suggested that it was more ‘output-based’ rather than focusing on outcomes. The Member was supportive of the actions taken but wanted to know if and how these were making a difference.


·       The Climate Change Manager clarified that whilst she led a small team, there was a wider network of colleagues across each of the directorates who championed specific areas relevant to their area of work. She said that this activity would be captured in future reports. The Cabinet Member added that comparative work with other agencies had been undertaken to demonstrate outcomes, however, acknowledged that this was at an early stage of development.


·       Further clarification was sought on the link between the targets in the action plan and priorities articulated in the Council Plan. Specific reference was made to the reduction in emissions from the Council fleet which had not been achieved which was not reflected in the annual report. In response, it was noted that the introduction of an electric vehicles had taken longer than anticipated, including issues around infrastructure and supply. However, other steps to reduce the carbon footprint had been adopted to mitigate this.


·       Councillor Bacon repeated his question about how the adoption of the 2030 would contribute to long term change compared with a later target. Also, he sought clarification how the impact of climate literacy training would be evaluated.


·       It was outlined that many local authorities had adopted the 2030 target to articulate their ambition to tackle climate change and ‘lead by example’. By doing this in Rotherham, work had been undertaken to understand specific challenges (for example building decarbonisation) and what resources were needed to work towards the target. In respect of the training, it was highlighted that each course was full, showing that it is wanted by staff to support their understanding of their role in meeting the Council’s climate change targets. As the training had only been delivered recently, it was difficult to measure its impact. However, it was noted that staff had been delivering on actions such as sharing communications or working on specific initiatives.


·       The Cabinet Member repeated that the Council adopted 2030 as its target, following the debate of a motion to Council in October 2019. It was important that action was taken to reduce emissions and invited the Climate Change Manager to clarify what the Council’s 2% contribution to carbon emissions equated to. This was outlined that this equated to approximately 7800 tonnes of carbon dioxide per year; this had an impact of the atmosphere, the health of children and young people and the wider population. It was important that action was taken now for future generations.


·       In respect of the earlier question about outputs, clarification was sought how the cycle lane scheme (particularly in the Broom Road area and on Sheffield Road) contributed to reductions in CO2 emissions. Examples were given of additional congestion as a result of building work which would lead to further pollution. How would these emissions be offset? Additionally, how would the modal shift from car to cycle be evaluated? The Member expressed doubt that passive exposure to cycling infrastructure would lessen car use.  In her view, she felt frustrated that residents had not been consulted sufficiently on the route.  She felt that the contribution of cycle routes to reductions in carbon emissions was misrepresented in the annual report as it did not provide sufficient evidence of how this would happen. She also asked if investment would be better spent on improving pedestrian routes to encourage more people to walk.


·       In response, the Cabinet Member reiterated the need to reduce car use in order to reduce CO2 emissions. She acknowledged that the modal shift to encourage more cycle or pedestrian journeys may take time, however, she supported this if it led to less pollution and improving health outcomes for children and adults with chronic respiratory conditions.  She noted that as part of an earlier agenda item the South Yorkshire Mayor referenced that improvements to the public transport network would take time in order to introduce the necessary infrastructure. Likewise, she asserted that the benefits of cycle routes made not be realised immediately. The Cabinet Member firmly rejected that the information on cycle routes had been misrepresented in the report.


The Chair invited the Cabinet Member and officer to have further discussions outside of the meeting with Cllr Yasseen on the issues raised.


The Chair thanked Cllr Lelliott for her attendance at OSMB over the previous years.




1.    That the Cabinet’s approval of the Climate Change Action Plan in Appendix 2 and the key achievements and opportunities summarised in Appendix 1 and section 2 of this report be noted.

2.    That details of the carbon literacy training be circulated to Members in the new municipal year.

3.    That consideration be given to how a greater emphasis can be placed on reflecting outcomes (rather than outputs) in future iterations of the Climate Emergency Annual Report.

4.    That consideration be given to how relevant targets outlined in the Council Plan and those articulated in future Climate Emergency Annual Reports can be explicitly linked and referenced.

Supporting documents: