South Ribble Borough Council has set out the areas that will be covered by its pledge to turn the district carbon neutral within a decade.
The authority made the commitment last year after declaring a “climate emergency” – but there was a dispute between the ruling Labour and opposition Conservative groups over whether the promise should relate only to emissions created by the council itself or the entire borough.
The Tories questioned whether it was realistic for the whole of South Ribble to go carbon neutral 20 years earlier than the government’s target for the rest of the country; however, Labour accused their opponents of lacking ambition.
A task group of councillors established to inform the authority’s environmental policies has now reiterated that “this goal means the borough shall produce no net carbon emissions by ”.
However, they also acknowledged that the council “does not have any direct control over significant causes of emissions” – and so will instead seek to act as a “climate change leader for the rest of the borough”.
The policy, which has been adopted by cabinet members, means the authority will also seek to exert its green influence in areas such as planning.
The council will calculate whether it achieves its carbon neutral aim by measuring direct and indirect emissions from sources owned or controlled within the borough – such as vehicles or electricity used in the district. But emissions caused by vehicles passing through South Ribble or holiday flights taken by residents living in the area will not be within the scope of the calculation – and neither will carbon offsetting be used to reach the target.
Meanwhile, residents in the borough are being reminded that they live in a “smoke control” area – which outlaws the emission of smoke from a chimney and restricts the use of many solid fuel burners, including those using wood.
Jennifer Mullin, the authority’s director of neighbourhoods said that a public information campaign was needed to raise awareness of the rules. The council receives several reports each week of smoke being illegally emitted – the maximum fine for which is £1,000.
“It’s not just air pollution outside, but also [that created] indoors which is quite significant with a woodburner, especially for young children,” Ms. Mullin said.
Only “authorised” solid smokeless fuels can be burned in the borough – with wood permitted only if it is used on an “exempt” appliance that meets clean air regulations set by the government.
Council leader Paul Foster admitted that the overarching environmental targets set by the authority were “challenging”.
“I’ll happily stand here and be slapped around the face for not achieving [something] that people think is impossible, but I’m confident that we will all pull together throughout Lancashire and the country to make a difference – because we have to make a difference for the kids,” he said.
DO AS WE DO?
Cabinet members heard that the council’s plan to plant a tree for each of South Ribble’s 110,000 residents within four years has already established strong roots – with 32,000 so far in the ground. A tree totaliser has been set up at the Civic Centre – and will exclude any of the 30 percent of new trees estimated to die before taking hold.
Other green policies recommended by the new working group include:
***A full review of paper use in meetings, with the aim of paper free meetings.
***Introduce solar panels and thermal panels to the roof of the Civic Centre to reduce the council’s reliance on gas.
***Change all lights in the Civic Centre and car park to LED versions.
***Investigate a green energy supply to the council’s buildings to ensure renewable sources of energy used.
However, the council said that it had been unable to source electric versions of a fleet of new vehicles that it intends to buy – unless it was willing to spend “an inordinate amount of money”.
But cabinet member for finance Matthew Tomlinson said the vehicles to be purchased – including bin lorries and tractors – used the “cleanest diesel engines currently available”.
Conservative opposition member Michael Green said that the weighting given to environmental considerations within the £1.2m procurement exercise – five percent – was “woefully low”. A member of the public also demanded to know what was “more important to the council – cost or the environment”.
Cllr Tomlinson said it was an “interesting philosophical question”.
“But we’re working in the real world, spending your money – so there will always be a balance and a judgement to make,” he added.