Taking our first steps to becoming carbon neutral

A number of priority areas are highlighted in an extensive Climate Emergency Action Plan approved by Wealden District Council’s Cabinet 

These include reducing energy in buildings, moving away from the use of fossil fuels to low or zero emission technologies. Also included is a transformation in the way we travel. It will mean reducing the number of car journeys made and replacing diesel and petrol engine vehicles with low and zero emission alternatives.

“Our Climate Emergency Plan provides a detailed breakdown of CO2 emissions produced within the District,” said Councillor Roy Galley, Cabinet Member responsible for Climate Change. “The biggest source of CO2 emissions (47.2%) in the District is from the transport sector. A further 34.7% comes from the gas, electricity and other fuels used to heat and power homes.”

These figures will provide us with a realistic baseline as we seek to make this Council, and the District, carbon neutral by 2050 or earlier. We declared a Climate Emergency in July and we will lead by example. We will be using our support and influence to help the District reduce emissions. We are all going to have to make some careful decisions about the way we travel and heat and power our homes in the coming years. We will need to see more electric vehicles on the road, and to do that, there will have to be more charging points, both in people’s own homes and in public places. Ensuring the continued use and viability of bus services will also be important.

Switching from gas central heating to direct electric heating or other low carbon heating systems will prove costly. We will be looking to see what support the Government is able to provide for householders. Many of the houses in Wealden were built over a hundred years ago and installing appropriate insulation can be challenging.

Further carbon reductions can be made by planting more trees to help with carbon sequestration. We can increase planting on our own land and encourage others to plant more on their land.

Much of the Council’s own carbon emissions are from the homes it provides for elderly people and its own offices. The Council has already undertaken a comprehensive retrofit of its Hailsham office, incorporating renewable heat such as air source heat pumps and electricity generating technologies such as solar photovoltaic (PV) cells. It has also undertaken extensive upgrades of its Retirement Living Courts, installing solar PV arrays.

The Council will now be developing a Carbon Management Plan to identify the potential for delivering further carbon reductions within its properties. It will be investigating the potential for a low carbon heat network in the redevelopment of Hailsham town centre.

A report produced by consultants AECOM has identified the 2017 carbon emissions levels for the Wealden District and the 2018/19 levels for the District Council. These will provide the baselines that will be used to meet the Climate Emergency Plan’s goal of zero emissions by 2050 or earlier. However the Council is well aware that to reach this target will require a national shift in policy and behaviours, and technological innovation.

Council officers will now take forward the prioritised actions. They will report to Cabinet on progress against these.

The Cabinet report on the Climate Emergency including the consultants’ report can be downloaded from www.wealden.gov.uk