Dorset Council defends progress in tackling climate emergency

climate planDORSET Council’s environmental portfolio holder has defended criticisms that the authority has been too slow to respond to the climate emergency it declared more than two years ago.

Cllr Ray Bryan has said the authority is working hard to spend £19million of government grants to tackle climate-related problems.

Some of the money is going into reducing the carbon footprint of council-owned buildings council buildings, including County Hall, while some schools are being offered a share of the funding for similar work.

The first £300,000 was spent on surveys and reports to design works and develop heat decarbonisation plans. The remaining money is being spent on the installation of decarbonisation technologies, such as air source heat pumps, improving energy efficiency through measures like insulation, LED lighting and the installation of solar panels.

At this stage over 100 feasibility studies and decarbonisation plans have been completed, with more than 40 Dorset Council-owned sites considered for decarbonisation work so far, over 25 projects.

Amongst these are 15 schools identified for air source heat pumps and leisure centres in Purbeck and Blandford, which have swimming pools, ear-marked for LED lighting, solar panels and upgrades to their electrical infrastructure.

Once all of the projects identified so far have been completed they will create total CO2 savings of around 2,600 tonnes annually, and bring financial savings of about £375,000 each year to the council.

Said Cllr Ray Bryan, portfolio holder for Highways, Travel and Environment: “This is a very ambitious project, to be delivered in a short period of time, as all works need to be installed and working by the end of March 2022. Therefore, it’s vitally important that we spend this money wisely and efficiently.

“We’ve been working extremely hard on making sure we get the best “bang-for-buck” when deciding not only which buildings will benefit most from these projects, but which measures would be most effective in reducing our carbon footprint. And, of course, the less money we spend on energy the more we can put back into essential council services.

“We’ll work with local companies on these upgrades wherever possible and share our progress once the heat pumps, solar panels etc. are installed so our residents can not only see what we’re up to but perhaps investigate whether such measures might help them reduce their own carbon footprint.”

The money comes from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, with Dorset winning one of the highest awards in the country.

Cllr Bryan says the council now aims to have ‘shelf ready’ projects which it can put forward at a moment’s notice, when the next round of grant funding is offered.

The authority is also in the process of appointing a director-level officer to head up its climate and ecological emergency team.

He said it was unfair that the council had been criticised for not doing enough when it was doing much more than other authorities.

Several councillors congratulated him and the council team on their efforts. including Purbeck’s Beryl Ezzard, who said: “We’re all eco warriors here and I do want to see this going forward in a big way.”

By Local Democracy Reporter Trevor Bevins

Council publishes first progress report on climate emergency

Dorset Council has now published its first Climate and Ecological Emergency Strategy Progress Report, which focusses on action taken towards achieving carbon emission targets over the past year. as well as highlighting some of the work underway to deliver the strategy.

In 2019, the newly formed Dorset Council declared a Climate and Ecological Emergency (CEE), acknowledging the council needs to act on the causes and impacts of climate change and protect and enhance Dorset’s environment and wildlife.

It adopted the CEE Strategy and Action Plan in July 2021. Part of this strategy recognises the need to keep people informed about what its doing to reach its goals.

The report contains lots of important information, but some of the key headlines are include:

  • In 2020/21, the council’s carbon emissions reduced by around 17%, from 31,000 to 25,867 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (tCO2e). This is well in excess of the 8% year on year budget to reach carbon neutral by 2040.
  • The pandemic has fundamentally changed the way we travel. Business travel has reduced by 60% to 1,614,487 miles and it is estimated that council staff commuted less than half as much in 2020/21, down to below four million miles a year. Together this has saved around 2,644 tCO2e.
  • Energy use in Dorset Council buildings has shown a 21% reduction between 2019/20 and 2020/21, resulting in a saving of 2,100 tCO2e.
  • In 2020, the council secured an additional £4.8million to extend the Low Carbon Dorset programme to 2023. To date the programme has received more than 500 applications for support and awarded 150 grants to support £5million worth of low carbon projects saving 5,600 tCO2e.
  • In 2019, Dorset and Bournemouth, Christchurch & Poole (BCP) local renewable energy sites generated 484 Giga Watt hours (GWh) of renewable electricity, equivalent to just under 4% of Dorset & BCP total energy demand. There is another 246MW (mostly solar) currently in the planning system that may be installed in the coming years.
  • The council’s grounds teams, ranger teams and arboriculture teams are now all using battery powered frontline tools, powered by the authority’s own solar panels. Each year this should save approximately 8,000 litres of fuel, £10,000 in cost and 19 tCO2e.
  • As part of Dorset Council’s pollinator action plan, it is using methods to protect, conserve and enhance highway verges and other green spaces. This has included purchasing two more cut and collect machines, which will benefit an additional 350,000 m2 of highway verge and amenity spaces.
  • The Dorset Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty team has secured more than £1.3million over three years for a ‘Farming and Protected Landscapes’ project, which will provide funding to support projects to manage land for nature, climate, people and place.
  • In 2020/21 highways materials used reduced 30%, saving 1,305 tCO2e. The council uses between 10% and 30% Recycled Asphalt Planings (depending on works) and 6,126 tonnes (up from 2,668 tonnes the previous year) of its own recycled surfacing. This reduces its carbon footprint as lorries do not have to travel to source primary materials.

Cllr Bryan commented: “I am pleased with the progress we are making and encourage all interested residents to visit the website, read the progress report and see what we are doing to reduce our carbon footprint and play our part in tackling the Climate and Ecological Emergency.

“However, it’s important to note that Dorset Council only accounts for around 1% of the county’s carbon footprint and has limited impact on county-wide emissions. The latest government data shows that Dorset emissions have only reduced by 6% since 2017, against a 9% target.

“This demonstrates how much more work needs to be done if we as a county hope to reach net zero carbon emissions before it is too late. Only by working together – central government, councils, organisations, businesses and local communities – can we hope to secure a greener and cleaner Dorset for future generations.”

Woodmead Halls

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