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Wiltshire Climate Strategy Discussion Document January 2021

Towards carbon neutral: Our overall challenge

In February 2019, the council declared a climate emergency and committed to seek to make the county of Wiltshire carbon neutral by 2030. To this end, in July 2019, Wiltshire Council to become carbon neutral by 2030. The pledge relates to the council's carbon emissions (or 'carbon footprint') that are within its direct control, i.e. those from its operations and buildings.  In order to fulfil this commitment, the council's carbon footprint will be drastically reduced compared with its current footprint and any residual emissions will be offset. 

Defining carbon neutral and net zero

'Net zero carbon emissions' or 'net zero carbon' is conceptually the same as carbon neutral, though there are some different technical specifications in use. Carbon neutral means to result in no net release of carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere and should take into account schemes which offset carbon production.

When we talk about 'carbon' emissions this means the full range of greenhouse gases (opens new window) unless stated, and these emissions are measured as carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2e).

National policy

According to the most recent report from the UK Committee on Climate Change (Climate Change Committee (CCC): Sixth Carbon Budget (opens new window), December 2020) we still have the opportunity to turn the situation around and it is achievable, and affordable. 

This report and other studies show that many of the solutions we need are already developed. We therefore need to base our immediate action on existing technology and solutions, while innovating for the longer-term solutions. The UK Government's Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution sets out intentions for the economic recovery post Covid-19, and puts supporting green jobs and the net zero carbon goal at its centre.

Many of these measures will deliver 'co-benefits', for example the reduction in fossil fuel use will decrease air pollution as well as carbon emissions. While trees are absorbing carbon dioxide from the air, the woodlands created will also boost wildlife and provide accessible green spaces which is of proven benefit to health and wellbeing.

National policy is changing rapidly in the run up to the COP26 (opens new window) to be held in Glasgow in 2021, when the commitments from all countries who have signed up to the Paris Agreement will be reviewed. As the host nation, the UK is seeking to provide ambitious leadership.

National direction of travel

The 10 Point Plan and the Sixth Carbon Budget report indicate that the national route towards carbon neutralise likely to include:

  •  Vehicles will be electric, though mileage is not predicted to fall significantly, with potential savings of £8bn / year to consumers by 2035
  • Journeys by public transport, walking and cycling will need to increase.
  • Growth in air travel and related infrastructure is curbed by 6%, but could increase again as low-carbon planes become viable
  • Emissions from flights will be offset by tree-planting - funded by airlines, making flights more expensive
  • Energy will be renewable, with a significant amount from offshore wind. Hydrogen and nuclear will also be part of the mix nationally. 
  • Electricity use will increase as transport and heat are electrified, and grid infrastructure will be updated to enable decentralised and smart energy generation and storage technologies
  • Homes will be more energy efficient, costs being offset by energy savings. Gas boilers will be phased out and new homes will be required to have low-carbon heating such as heat pumps 
  • Low carbon industries, such as those building renewable energy installation or retrofitting homes with new technology, will create thousands of jobs throughout the UK 
  • Supply chains will help to decrease the carbon produced directly and indirectly by what we buy and consume 
  • Research and innovation will focus on developing clean solutions to shipping and aviation, and carbon capture, usage and storage technology
  • Consumption of meat and dairy will need to decrease by about 20% by 2030 rather than a complete move to meatless diets, as long as reduction in emissions in other areas is achieved
  • The UK will have a 40% increase in woodland areas.  Some will be accessible, some will be commercial forest, some will be protected for nature 
  • Food production will need to be increased and more efficient, while farms will be supported to help fight climate change and increase biodiversity
  • Nature recovery initiatives and the Environmental Land Management scheme help to sequester carbon, reduce flood risk and provide green places for people and wildlife.

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