Independent reports outline climate challenges and the significant progress made
Report say the local authority is in a strong position to meets its carbon neutral commitment by 2030, but the county as a whole needs to do more.
Independent reports commissioned by Wiltshire Council have stated the local authority is in a strong position to meets its carbon neutral commitment by 2030, but the county as a whole needs to do more.
Independent consultant the Anthesis Group, specialists in providing support and expertise to organisations looking to be as sustainable as possible, provided the council with a detailed technical study of its, and the county's, climate ambitions. This has provided the council with a clear picture of the way forward and the progress made so far.
In February 2019, at a meeting of full council, Wiltshire Council resolved to acknowledge a climate emergency and to seek to make the county of Wiltshire carbon neutral by 2030. A Climate Emergency Task Group was set up to gather evidence and come up with recommendations on achieving this. Wiltshire Council's Cabinet subsequently committed to also make the council carbon neutral by 2030. The Wiltshire Climate Strategy was adopted in February this year to support the council to meet these commitments.
On its ambitions for the organisation itself to be carbon neutral by 2030, Anthesis found that Wiltshire Council is in a very strong position to meet its carbon neutral commitment by 2030. The main focus of the report was on the council's direct emissions and it showed that the council has reduced its carbon footprint by 81% since 2014/15, and the projects currently in the pipeline should help get that to a 90% reduction by 2030. With further investment in offsetting, the council should reach its carbon neutral target by 2030.
Some of the wide variety of work carried out by the council to support its carbon neutral commitment so far, includes:
- A new green energy contract for schools so they can access green energy at a competitive rate; 128 schools have signed up so far.
- Thanks to sustained investment in solar panels, in 2020/21 the council generated 450,135 kWh renewable electricity on its own estate, a 39% increase on the previous financial year.
- Two successful grant applications to Natural England totalling £10,000 to support the development of a Local Nature Recovery Strategy, plus evidence mapping for habitats across Wiltshire and Swindon.
- Energy consumption from streetlights has been reduced by part-night lighting, dimming and a £12m investment in LEDs
- So far 90 council homes have been retrofitted to improve their energy efficiency rating, with measures such as intelligent hot water cylinders, solar panels and high heat retaining storage heaters.
- The council's first Electric Vehicle Charging Infrastructure Plan has been approved, and funding has been identified and approved for a number of electric vehicle charging points in the county.
- The council is replacing several vehicles, with many of them anticipated to be electric.
- An order for new electric and non-electric bikes for council staff has been placed with a local bike charity to help reduce car miles and carbon emissions.
Anthesis also focused on the county's overall ambition to be carbon neutral by 2030. The report clearly demonstrated that although Wiltshire Council will play a key role in helping the county to be carbon neutral, everyone from individuals, organisations, businesses and central government will need to play their part and step up to provide support. Real change can be achieved by 2030, and significant progress has already been made, but within the current national policy and funding constraints it's highly unlikely the county will be carbon neutral by then.
Anthesis' report showed that without any policy or funding constraints the county's carbon emissions could be reduced by 55% by 2030, but a number of things would need to happen within the next five years. This includes 72% of Wiltshire vehicles having ultra-low emissions (which was 3% in 2020), one in four Wiltshire homes being retrofitted to make them more energy efficient, 39% of domestic heating systems being electrified (9% in 2020), household recycling rates needing to increase to 59% (47% in 2019) and tree cover increasing by 21% on current levels.
Cllr Richard Clewer, Leader of Wiltshire Council, said:
"As a council we are one of the leading local authorities when taking into account the progress we have made in developing and executing our climate strategy, since stating our ambition to be a carbon neutral organisation by 2030. This report demonstrates that significant progress has been made and shows how we can complete the decarbonisation of the council.
"We're not burying our heads in the sand in avoiding the issue of the wider ambition of the county though, and that's precisely why we commissioned these reports in the first place - something very few other local authorities have done. We want to know exactly what we're facing so we can meet it head-on with our eyes open. The report shows how important government legislation and support will be in our collective effort to reduce carbon emissions across Wiltshire. We know our residents want to take action to reduce their emissions but they will need help, and the creation of a new retrofitting industry in the county, to turn aspiration into delivery.
"I want these reports to help galvanise and inspire people to take action. As a council we'll drive that forward and keep the momentum up as much as we're able to through our Business Plan and Climate Strategy objectives so that we can engage, empower and enable - but we can't do it on our own.
"These reports provide valuable information and insight and are something tangible we can use to our benefit to make a strong case to government that more needs to be done to support local authorities in their climate ambitions.
"The scale of the challenges can't be underestimated, but this county, supported by its committed communities, local groups, and organisations, has proven time and time again that it can rise to anything it faces."
Cllr Richard Clewer was recently appointed as Co-President of the UK100 and he is also Chair of the Countryside Climate Network, demonstrating that the council and the county is in a strong position to influence and has a national platform.
Wiltshire Council's Climate Strategy can be found at Wiltshire Climate Strategy.
Lots of information, including guidance on what individuals can do to make a positive difference, can be found at Climate change - what can you do as an individual?.
Other projects the council has been involved with to support the county include:
- All eight household recycling centres (HRCs) operated by FCC now provide separate labelled walk-in containers where residents and site staff can store good-quality items suitable for reuse or refurbishment, such as furniture. Many of these items are made available to charities, which refurbish and re-sell them or donate to families in need. Between April and September 2021, 90 tonnes of items were reused.
- An action planning day was held for town and parish councils to empower them to make practical changes in their communities.
- A new solar panel bulk buying scheme, called Solar Together Wiltshire recently launched which will enable Wiltshire residents to get high quality solar panels at a lower cost.
- The ongoing #WiltsCanDoThis behaviour change social media campaign has been seen more than 1.1 million times.
- The launch of a scheme that enables Wiltshire households with an income of £30,000 or less, and living in a property that is rated D, E, F or G for energy efficiency, the chance to access up to £10,000 for improvements such as insulation, solar panels and double glazing.