John Hart: Devon County Council is taking the lead on climate change
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Devon County Council leader John Hart writes for this title
Not many of us will look back on 2020 with any affection. But I want to look forward.
I’m an optimist and, as far as Covid-19 is concerned, we can have some hope with the roll-out of the vaccination programme.
But this week I want to consider another vital subject where I can report on some very positive progress in our county.
Before the pandemic, global warming was dominating the news agenda. And in Devon, work on reducing our carbon emissions has been proceeding apace – despite the coronavirus.
I am very proud that Devon County Council has been taking a lead on the issue.
We declared our intention to be net-zero carbon by 2030 and pledged £250,000 to help establish the Devon Climate Emergency Response Group.
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This is made up of the chief officers of more than 25 public, private and voluntary sector organisations in Devon and is tasked with delivering Devon’s Carbon Plan, our roadmap to carbon neutrality.
I am taking this extremely seriously and I have asked the county council’s chief executive, Phil Norrey, to chair the group.
Now in case you are thinking this is just another talking shop, I can assure you it isn’t.
If we are to tackle global warming then all of us need to change our behaviour – personally, in our communities and in the organisations and companies of which we are a part.
And if people are going to change then they need to feel part of the process. So a major consultation’s been launched this month to enable everyone in Devon to have their say on what needs to be done.
Our interim Carbon Plan has been produced by a task force chaired by Professor Patrick Devine-Wright, an environmental social scientist from Exeter University and a lead author for the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
The task force held hearings and received nearly 900 suggestions from local people and organisations on the actions we should take.
They’ve based much of the plan on this feedback and now we want your views and your ideas for how we can cut our carbon emissions.
You can read the plan and respond to a consultation questionnaire at the Devon Climate Emergency website on devonclimateemergency.org.uk/governance/devon-climate-emergency-response-group or you can obtain a paper copy from your local library from January 6, by emailing email@example.com or by phone on 0345 155 1015.
Devon’s last major consultation on our libraries drew 20,000 responses and we’re hoping for something similar or even more this time.
Climate change affects us all and if we feel committed to the actions needed to combat it and have made our contribution to defining them, then we’re more likely to make the effort and, potentially, to take the pain.
Already progress is being made. The county council’s own carbon footprint has fallen by almost half in the last eight years.
Within two years our streetlights will all be LED, cutting carbon emissions by three-quarters. That’s 15,000 tonnes of carbon a year - equivalent to taking 8,000 cars off the road.
We will further reduce emissions by improving the energy efficiency of county council buildings.
We’ve installed solar panels at County Hall and we’ll repeat that on other buildings and we’ll buy renewable energy direct from new solar power projects in Devon.
We’re planning to make at least half of our vehicle fleet electric in the next few years and we’re working to ensure our supply chain is carbon neutral by 2030.
None of that is enough but, with your help, we can inspire individuals, communities, companies and organisations across Devon to do even more.