Dorset prepares climate change action plan ahead of Cabinet meeting

climateDORSET Council has prepared its action plan for how the local authority will help tackle climate change over the next few decades.

Having declared a Climate and Ecological Emergency last year, a draft Climate and Ecological Emergency Strategy was produced in July 2020.

This presented eight key areas for action to ensure that the council’s services and estate become carbon neutral (i.e. they save more carbon than they produce) by 2040, and across the whole Dorset Council area by 2050.

Following approval of the strategy, Cabinet members asked for a costed action plan that identifies what the council will do to hit the strategy’s targets.

In a paper set to go to Dorset Council’s Cabinet on Tuesday, October 6, a report sets out the findings of this work and gives an idea of working costs to feed into the budget setting process.

The paper also recommends that both the climate change strategy and action plan are taken to public consultation at the end of October.

The draft plan contains 187 actions for how the council will tackle climate change over the next 20-30 years. About 97 of these will require additional funding, totalling in the region of £127million over that period.

Examples of actions proposed include:

  • Make the most of renewable energy opportunities of all council-owned buildings; convert all buildings without gas/electricity to heat pumps or biomass, convert heating of all other buildings to hydrogen-ready hybrid heat pumps, install solar panels on every roof
  • Construct or buy into large renewable energy installation/s (solar panels or wind turbines) on council-owned land to meet demand
  • Produce a supplementary planning policy to encourage renewable energy being integrated into all new buildings
  • Use council buildings in trial projects to test the use of hydrogen heating
  • Reduce use of fertilisers on council land by increased use of locally produced compost
  • Develop plan to transition county farms to low carbon production – work with county farm tenants to encourage the adoption of more climate and ecological friendly practice
  • Councillors to lobby government for additional resources and the national policy framework to support climate action in Dorset
  • Establish a policy to ensure all new buildings that Dorset Council has direct influence over (as landowners, clients, or designers) are zero carbon
  • Creation of suitable high ecological value areas on council land (incl. bee-friendly, wildflower, hedge and woodland planting zones) and areas for carbon sequestration and climate resilience
  • Ensure access to sustainable transport is considered in planning applications
  • Encourage decarbonisation of road transport through development of public electric vehicle charging network and promotion of ultra-low emission vehicles
  • Where feasible, replace council vehicle fleet with electric and or hydrogen replacements

Cllr Ray Bryan, Dorset Council’s portfolio holder for Highways, Travel and Environment, said: “From the very start of this process, I said we would work hard to ensure that both our strategy and action plan for the Climate and Ecological Emergency were ambitious, exciting and realistic.

“Now that these have been fully drafted, I’m proud to present them as a true demonstration of how seriously we are taking our responsibilities toward tackling climate change.

“There are some quick-wins within the plan that we’ll be looking to get in place as soon as possible, but there are also hugely ambitious actions – especially regarding renewable energy – that I’m excited to hear what the public think about.

“Some actions just need us to change how we do things, but others will require extra funding, changes in government legislation and close partnership working.

“I want to thank the many councillors and officers who have taken the time to help devise this strategy and plan, as well the members of the public who submitted their views and ideas earlier this year, which were incorporated into our work.

“Please read the strategy and action plan and be sure to let us know what you think when the consultation opens.”

Members of the public can watch the Cabinet meeting online on Tuesday, October 6 at 10am by downloading the Microsoft Teams app and following the link on the published agenda. It is expected to be a lengthy meeting with several important topics to discuss, including the council’s budget for 2021/22 which is expected to see a shortfall of £35million, and regulations regarding dogs on beaches.

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