Carolyn McKenzie, Director for Environment at Surrey County Council (SCC) gave a presentation on Surrey’s Greener Future strategy which set out the council’s Climate Change delivery plan 2021-25.
This was the first action plan produced since a Climate Change emergency was declared by the council in May 2019. The plan was for a five year delivery period that would be reviewed on an ongoing basis. A very detailed implementation plan was to follow shortly.
Ms McKenzie reiterated the need for action and adaptation highlighting global temperature rises and extreme weather events. It was explained that this was the strategy for the county and not the county council with expectation that there would be complementary interaction with more local action plans at a district and borough level and with other non-public sector groups. The strategy did not yet cover local resilience and there was work to be done to support adaptation to change as well as to mitigate greater future change.
The emissions make up graphic for Surrey revealed that the majority of Surrey’s emissions came from buildings (51%) and transport (41%). The highest emissions for transport came from personal use vehicles and taxis. The highest emissions from buildings came from owner occupied residential. Local authority emissions were just 1% of the total and it was vital that other sectors, local residents and businesses be engaged to take action so that the strategy and commitment to net zero by 2030 could be achieved.
Given that local authorities’ emissions were so low the role for councils was set out as leading by example, enabling and financing projects, influencing behaviour change and collaborating with partners. Strategic areas would need to join up demonstrating strong governance and communications to empower communities and drive behaviour change as well as lobbying at government level.
Feedback from the strategy’s consultation which closed in the autumn suggested the council should have a realistic ambition and that a 1.5 degree temperature rise would only be attainable with government support. Joined agendas in that the co-benefits of climate change adaptations be promoted to push behaviour change such as better health, recovery of nature and economy. Positive procurement of goods and services coming from inside and outside of the county. Finally, the limitations of resources and the essential need to collaborate, to share, to partner and to coordinate.
There were seven principles for the delivery plan.
· To put residents and communities at the forefront to drive behaviour change;
· to work with partners wherever possible;
· to continue to lobby the government for policy change;
· to put carbon reduction at the heart of every decision the council made;
· to utilise new and innovative financing;
· to undertake a degree of meaningful offsetting and
· to ensure full engagement to ensure no one was left behind as changes were implemented.
With regard to offsetting, it was noted planting and improvements to green spaces could also have a positive effect on the biodiversity agenda.
With regard to full engagement it was recognised that the equalities agenda was important and that some behaviour change decisions such as installing heat pumps and purchasing an electric vehicle were beyond the reach of many and the council and partners would need to address such challenges together with residents to support behaviour change.
There were four themes to the delivery plan:
· Greener Future Communities (97% emissions)
· One net zero public estate (2% emissions)
· Grow back greener (0.2% emissions)
· Build back greener (regeneration)
Processes for monitoring, financing and reporting back were being put together.
The plan sought to reduce county emissions by 20% (1.2M tons) and SCC emissions by 40% (8,300 tons) by 2025 whilst rolling out climate compatible infrastructure and maximising co-benefits. This included retrofitting 53,000 homes. The estimated cost overall was £4B. The county had already attracted £28M in finance from districts and boroughs. ‘Solar together’ had been launched in partnership with the districts and boroughs and the installations were currently being undertaken. This project had been a great success with 5,000 solar panels currently being installed on residential homes equalling around 2 mega-watt of renewables. It was estimated that at the close of the first round of ‘Solar together’ this would include additional panels amounting to 4 mega-watt of renewables.
The priorities for 2022 ‘Greener Future communities’ included progressing the solar panel roll out target of 6.2M PV panels by achieving an additional 7,000 registrations on top of 1,500 installations already underway. This would include engagement with those residents who were ‘able to pay’. In addition, engagement work would be expanded to engage off gas (oil fuel, park homes etc.) residents to take up new Home Upgrade Grant funding and a new project to engage private sector landlords to meet minimum energy efficiency standards with a low interest or no interest loan scheme. Larger PV installation sites were being sought across the county this year. For ‘One net zero public estate’ although schools fell into Scope 3 emissions, the county would be starting to address those emissions this year. Procurement would also be an area of review to stimulate new products and services and stimulate the green economy. For ‘Build back greener’, the county would be seeking opportunities for consistent planning policies and guidance as planning was a key area of focus for change. For ‘Grow back greener’ the county would continue land management that supported the Climate Change agenda including tree and hedgerow planting, engaging with businesses and communities to maintain trees and wildlife and by taking a lead on the Local Nature Recovery Strategy.
The behaviour change approach would include research and engagement (e.g. school surveys and barriers to reducing car journeys), develop and deliver pilots (e.g. advanced site specific cycle training for schools), empowering communities (e.g. the Green Futures Design Challenge and Farnham Cycle Campaign) and activating infrastructure (e.g. promote new cycle routes and bike purchase/hire incentives). It was acknowledged that as a large organisation SCC could improve its engagement with local groups and communities and that improvement would be essential to see behaviour change. It would be important to tell local people’s stories, young and old alike to inspire others. There would be ten SCC engagement priorities during 2022 which would focus on spending the grants received from government, active travel, lobbying, replacing heating systems and targeting landlords. These would all be partnership projects.
There would be an internal engagement process within the council itself to work with staff on behaviour change. SCC would be happy to share this approach with partners.
The Board was appreciative of the presentation and there was agreement with the need for a strong partnership approach to tackle Climate Change.
Planning and development policies that with respect to certain local differences but that essentially were the same in terms of environment were considered important.
The matter of warming in the south of the country and the effect on biodiversity was raised. It was noted that areas of landscape would need to be connected to provide corridors and in particular a corridor to the north to support species movement.
Supporting communities was discussed and it was noted that other towns were reaching out to Zero Carbon Guildford for advice on setting up other local hubs. In the Horsleys a Climate Change group was proposing to use a section of the library as a zero carbon hub. The use of libraries as community hubs was welcomed.
Ms McKenzie sought endorsement for the plan from key partners to achieve a ‘united front’ approach to tackling Climate Change. Where there were local differences it was hoped they would be complementary to the strategy, but partnership was fundamental. The Board considered that it would be appropriate for a report seeking formal endorsement for the SCC strategy be put to the Guildford Borough Council Executive for consideration.
A copy of the SCC Cabinet report setting out the strategy would be circulated to the Board.