Agenda item

Mandate to develop a Climate Change Programme


A mandate proposal to introduce a work programme to co-ordinate and manage the Council’s approach to climate change related activities was before the Strategy and Resources Executive Advisory Board (EAB) for consideration.  This programme, which consisted of various projects and workstreams, would address the Council’s commitment to achieve its net zero emissions target across the authority’s property estate and service operations and other aspects of actions related to addressing climate change.


The EAB received an introductory presentation from the Head of Asset Management (Climate Change Lead) regarding the mandate which addressed the following areas:


·             Programme Strategy

·             Options Evaluation

·             Considerations

·             Climate Change Programme Workstreams

·             Resources

·             Programme Cost Profile

·             Issues, Assumptions and Risks

·             Dependencies, Constraints and Opportunities

·             Appendix A: Internal Stakeholders Reviewer List

·             Appendix B: Climate Change Programme Group Proposal – Terms of Reference; Who; Why; and Primary, Secondary and Tertiary Tasks

·             Corporate Management Team Outcome

·             Executive / Management Team Liaison Group Outcome


The presentation reminded the EAB that in July 2019 the Council declared a Climate Emergency which acknowledged that urgent action was required to combat climate change and set a commitment to working towards making the Council’s own activities net zero carbon by 2030.  The Energy and Carbon Reduction High-level Action Plan was subsequently adopted in July 2020 and the Council’s commitment was reiterated in the Climate Change Motion passed in October 2020.  The significance of this commitment was reflected in the emergence of climate change as a strategic priority for the Council.


Government statistics indicated that 20% of borough-wide emissions emanated from businesses, 28% from domestic properties with the majority of 52% from transport.  The Council could undertake a stewardship role in facilitating a borough-wide transition involving both residents and businesses alike whilst engaging with key stakeholders.


In order to effectively and efficiently reduce carbon emissions, the Council would need to adopt a holistic collaborative approach across the organisation, involving all of its services, assets and operations, which aligned with other strategies such as the Council’s Air Quality Strategy.


The mandate set out five potential strategic options to deliver a climate change solution consisting of (1) Do nothing, (2a) or (2b) Do minimum, (3) Do more, the recommended option, or (4) Do most.  Options 3 and 4 offered opportunities to explore the possibility of closer working with Waverley Borough Council (WBC) in respect of shared knowledge and project work as part of new joint working arrangements.


In addition to considering the high level mandate, EAB members also discussed aspects of some of the programme projects and workstreams flowing from the mandate.  The following points arose from related questions, comments and discussion:


The Mandate


1.           Although the formalising and progressing of a climate change work programme were welcomed, there was a view that the mandate lacked ambition and could be strengthened in its aims, notwithstanding the Council’s financial situation.

2.           The limited references to the Climate Change Board (CCB) in the mandate together with the inclusion of only one councillor in the Stakeholders Reviewer List were causes of concern as it was felt that the engagement of councillors was necessary to promote, drive and fund the programme.  Therefore, it was considered that references to the CCB should be included in all relevant sections of the mandate.  Also, as the CCB had not reviewed or discussed this mandate, it should be given the opportunity to do so.

3.           In addition to the stakeholder groups referred to in the Resources section of the mandate, it was suggested that other organisations be added to broaden the range of involvement and expertise within and beyond the Borough and County boundaries.  These should include Friends of the Earth, who had issued guidelines to councils to assist them to influence climate change positively, together with Extinction Rebellion and Zero Carbon Guildford, which could aid the Council to achieve its targets by engaging with different demographics within local communities.  From the transport perspective, the need for the involvement of Highways England, the Local Highway Authority and bus companies was also highlighted.  The involvement of such organisations would be sought in the areas of external mitigation and communications as workstreams developed, and references to them could be added to the mandate.

4.           Establishing a working group with key stakeholders such as Surrey Wildlife Trust, the Woodland Trust and Guildford Environmental Forum, either facilitated by the Council or one of the member groups, was suggested as a means to ensure joint working to deliver projects to protect the environment in an economical manner.

5.           As many other councils had progressed work to tackle climate change and developed related policies, it was suggested that this Council should have regard to these in the interests of shared learning and adopt any best practices that would be beneficial for this Borough in order to spare its limited resources and avoid duplication of work in this area.

6.           With regard to transport, there was support for this to be treated as a planning matter.  Although the involvement of Surrey County Council as the Local Highway Authority would be key, this Council would act as a facilitator in certain areas, particularly in relation to the town centre and work within Corporate Programmes.

7.           Option 3 (Do more), which would include engaging with WBC, was recommended as the means to deliver the 2030 carbon emission reduction target within the available resources.  Although Option 4 (Do Most), which would consist of embracing wider carbon reduction projects, was not currently a realist prospect for the Council owing to its funding constraints, some councillors expressed support for this Option.  However, a councillor suggested that an alternative option, focusing on attaining genuinely achievable targets to benefit the Council and local communities, could be adopted and prioritised over broader ranging and less defined matters.

8.           There was no mention of private homes in the Domestic Energy Efficiency Framework section of the mandate as the Council’s major target and influence in this area was in relation to addressing carbon emissions from its housing stock.  However, the Council could promote any emerging initiatives and funding opportunities relating to decarbonisation of private homes where possible.

9.           The mandate gave no indication of the percentage of Borough wide carbon dioxide emissions that stemmed from the building process and, in addition to the need for mitigation measures, it was felt that building should be environmentally reliable to reduce the Borough’s overall carbon footprint.  The Council had power as the Local Planning Authority and through the Building Regulations to impose building standards which were stricter than the national requirements in order to influence development by seeking reductions in carbon emissions in relation to all future housing development.  Developers could be encouraged to adhere to such a vision.

10.        It was felt that the Terms of Reference of the proposed Climate Change Programme Group (CCPG) should reflect the previously agreed formal reporting back to each Council meeting in respect of progress achieved towards delivery of the climate change declaration, including measurements against success targets and key performance indicators.  The CCB should also receive the progress reports.

11.        With the change in Lead Councillor for Climate Change, who would chair the CCB, it was envisaged that the Terms of Reference of the CCB would be reviewed as matters to be considered were the chairman’s prerogative.  In this connection, the need for having two climate change groups in the Council was questioned and the EAB was advised that the CCB was an Executive working group of councillors led by the Lead Councillor for Climate Change to pursue its ambitions whereas the CCPG was an officer group tasked with implementing climate change and carbon reduction initiatives.  In addition, Surrey County Council was leading a collaborative district / borough council officer group and channelling areas of work to each local authority to pursue and report back on progress.

12.        The reference in the Tertiary Tasks section to the incorporation of climate change factors into decision-making was felt to be a key point which should be strengthened and applied across the Council.

13.        Regarding the financing of the Programme, which was profiled to rise to over £6.5 million by 2030, the intention was to place the Council in a position of preparedness to apply for Government grants when details were known and funding became available.

14.        In terms of direct officer resources to oversee the Climate Change Programme, the EAB noted that this consisted of part of the Head of Asset Management’s time and one dedicated Climate Change Officer post.  However, the intention was to establish an internal organisational structure to spread the climate change implementation workload across the Council with all playing a part and taking responsibility for climate change and carbon reduction work.  A Councillor advised that Zero Carbon Guildford and the Guildford Environmental Forum, which were jointly operating from the Zero Centre retail space at The Friary, Guildford, could offer a significant resource of volunteers to assist the Council with its climate change initiatives.


Mandate Projects / Workstreams


15.        The reference in the mandate to the suitability of individual renewable energy projects was an example of a workstream.  One of the main ways for the Council to achieve its net zero target was to invest in a significant decarbonisation project, details of which were unknown at this stage.

16.        In terms of Secondary Tasks to deliver the Climate Change Programme, it was suggested that all new housing, including social housing, should be built in accordance with the Passive House Standards, as was the case with a number of other councils in respect of certain house categories, numbers and building zones.

17.        With regard to the Climate Change Programme workstreams, it was emphasised that planning and development were key to external mitigations and that fitting of new build properties with carbon emission reduction equipment e.g. ground source heat pumps, was preferable to retro fitting of such items to minimise associated costs and avoid the need for mitigations such as removing gas boilers when legislation disallowed their replacement.  All new building should also include electric vehicle charging points.

18.        With regard to the Tree Code, it was suggested that a Borough wide Tree Preservation Order with a default presumption against felling be introduced to ensure the optimisation of the management of trees.  Such a code should recognise that mature trees absorbed more carbon than saplings and seedlings and that this carbon was released when mature trees were felled.  A focus regarding working with parish councils, residents’ associations and community groups etc was required to seek their engagement with such an approach.

19.        As workstreams and projects were developed, the broad programme success criteria would be more clearly defined to develop specific and smarter targets to monitor and demonstrate progress in achieving project targets.


The Leader of the Council thanked the EAB for its questions and comments and confirmed that this exercise was to capture the Board’s thoughts around the Options in the mandate with a view to informing the forward direction for tackling climate change.


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