Dorset Council reveals strategy to fight climate emergency

climateHAVING declared a climate and ecological emergency as one of its first acts after being formed 2019, Dorset Council has now released the first draft of its strategy to help tackle this global crisis. 

The council has published its first draft of its Climate and Ecological Emergency Strategy online, ahead of the document being discussed by councillors at the Place Scrutiny meeting on July 23.

Since the Council declared a Climate and Ecological Emergency as one of its first acts back in May 2019, teams of councillors and officers have been working via dedicated sector ‘Task & Finish’ groups to devise the strategy, which will provide the direction, scope and ambition of the council’s action plan to address climate change across Dorset.

This strategy brings together a considerable amount of work and recommends areas for action that will deliver a realistic and achievable approach to ensure that Dorset Council is carbon-neutral by 2040, a decade ahead of the UK government’s 2050 target for the whole country.

Recommendations from the strategy document include, but are in no way limited to:

  • Maximise renewable energy opportunities of all Dorset Council buildings; convert all off-grid council buildings to heat pumps or biomass, convert heating of all on-grid buildings to hydrogen-ready hybrid heat pumps, install largest possible capacity solar arrays on every building
  • Construct large renewable energy installation on council-owned land to meet the council’s demand
  • Ensure Dorset Council supports sustainable development by prioritising social and environmental well-being as well as economic value
  • Carry out internal waste audits across our operations and create waste reduction plan
  • Increase biodiversity on identified areas of council land, and increase area of council-owned or managed land for ecological and carbon sequestration outcomes
  • Change as many vehicles within the council fleet as possible to ultra-low-carbon replacements; provide electric vehicle charging points and other ultra-low-emission fuel alternatives across the council property estate
  • Look at new ways of working to reduce carbon emissions as people move from home to work
  • Encourage green business growth and tourism as Dorset becomes the clean air place to live and visit

Tackling the climate emergency will require significant investment at all levels of society, with Dorset Council needing to invest large sums of money over the next 20 years to become a Carbon Neutral Council.

The council has a key role in lobbying government for clear policy and the financial support needed as we look to a zero-carbon future. It will work with partners to look for support and opportunities for external funding, making sure Dorset gets its fair share.

The council will also consult with the public and key stakeholders in order to gather views on its proposed approach as set out in the strategy. It wants to know if residents think it has this strategy right, has identified the correct areas for action, or whether any points are missing or need further consideration.

Dorset Council intends to do this later in the year following the development of a costed delivery plan. The details within this strategy will be further developed into a set of clear actions to be undertaken by the council.

The council will use the ‘Areas for Action’ within the document as a basis for this, but will also continue to draw upon the actions raised through its ‘Call for Ideas’ and ‘Inquiry Day’ sessions earlier this year.

This action plan will set out the council’s objectives, specific detailed actions, responsibilities, timescales and performance measures. It will also include details of other key partners required to help deliver these actions, the scale of potential carbon savings and the associated co-benefits.

Cllr Ray Bryan, Dorset Council’s portfolio holder for Highways, Travel and Environment, said: “I’m confident that this strategy provides the foundation for an action plan that is realistic, ambitious and deliverable by 2040 and I’d like to thank everyone who has been involved in putting it together.

“It is vital to recognise that the world has changed dramatically since we declared a climate emergency over a year ago. The COVID-19 pandemic has left Dorset Council with huge financial challenges that need to be urgently addressed. Balancing what we need to do to address climate change with our legal requirement to provide statutory services is key.

“The responsibilities of our climate and ecological emergency declaration will remain at the heart of Dorset Council’s plans and will continue to directly influence and inform future strategies, initiatives and policies.

“When our financial situation improves, when opportunities present themselves, or when new technology becomes available, I promise we will regularly return to this work to look for ways we can achieve our goals earlier. But in the meantime, I would ask everyone to read the strategy and let us know your views when we launch the consultation.”

The draft strategy can be found from page 15 of the Place Scrutiny Committee papers for July 23, which you can view by clicking here.

Woodmead Halls

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