East Devon is looking to realise an ambition to become a zero carbon council and will review proposals for tackling climate change

On Wednesday 10 July 2019 members of East Devon District Council’s Cabinet will have the opportunity to discuss a scoping report about the council’s ambition to become a zero carbon council and how it aims to respond to the Climate Change Emergency, which will involve significant organisational and business changes.

These aspirations fit well with the council’s long held theme of valuing and respecting our outstanding environment.

The report, which builds on an earlier report to Cabinet (in April 2019), is proposing a commitment to tackling the problems of climate change by signing up to the Devon Climate Change Emergency Declaration, as well as producing a Devon wide and East Devon specific action plan to address climate change. The council will also be looking to encourage businesses, communities and individuals to contribute towards reducing greenhouse gas emissions and generally forming a greater respect for the environment.

Climate change science and its impacts are summarised in the report and provide an introductory scene setter to the climate change journey, which will in itself require a sustained effort and commitment over a long period if it is to have the necessary impact.

The journey will begin with acceptance of the invitation to sign up to the Devon Climate Change Declaration. This is a set of high level, ambitious commitments produced by a group of largely public sector organisations, endorsed by a high level group of district chief executives and senior organisational leaders.

This piece of work is being led by Devon County Council in response to the climate change emergency concerns with enthusiastic input from partners.

It commits East Devon to adopting a leadership role, taking collective responsibility and championing transformational change.

At this stage, until the council has carefully and accurately determined its carbon footprint as an organisation, it does not propose an arbitrary date for being zero carbon. A date for this will be identified through the local action plan.

John Golding, the Strategic Lead for Housing, Health and Environment, who has written the report, said:

Climate Change is the greatest challenge faced by local and central government at the moment. But with a willing and focused approach we can rise to this challenge and build on the work we have been undertaking for some years.

This report concerns matters of life and death, maybe not for us, but for future generations and a variety of species, as we have all seen the changes in weather, air quality, flooding, rising sea levels, etc.

I plan to develop the local action plan, involving discussions with members, staff and other stakeholders, then will present it before the end of the year for adoption. At the same time, while developing our local action plan, we will also be influencing the county plan.

If the report recommendations are accepted we will need to work together on identifying the cost associated with the actions and resourcing the work. Climate Change is a complex subject and we need draw in expertise and challenge each other.

Cllr Ben Ingham, the Leader of East Devon District Council, said:

I am delighted to be leading a council that has put climate change at the top of its agenda. Let’s make climate change personal as everyone has an important part to play in this journey towards carbon neutrality. We plan to become a carbon neutral council and encourage other organisations to adopt a similar ambition. We must be politically bold and brave to draw on the values we held some years ago.

This agenda will not be universally popular when it constrains choice and lifestyle, but this is essential if we are to limit the further impacts of climate change. This goes deeper than recycling a bit more, it is about dramatically reducing what we buy, avoiding and embracing the circular economy that is described in the report. We need to learn to love and value our planet again. This may all sound melodramatic, but if we are to succeed we need to approach this challenge with passion and a long term commitment.

Cllr Geoff Jung, East Devon’s portfolio holder for the environment, said:

We have a moral and legal duty to act on climate change now. We mustn’t do this quietly, but make some noise and engage and energise our communities to work with us.

We can't achieve everything overnight, but sustained lifestyle and operational/business change is what is required.

This agenda must not be a fad or short term issue as it obviously requires a long term commitment.