Council provides update on key steps taken to tackle climate change in the district
Chichester District councillors have been updated on the positive progress of a number of key actions that have been completed, or are underway, to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions across the district.
As part of the council's Climate Emergency Action Plan, a detailed progress report has been produced. This highlights over 60 actions that the council has taken, or is currently taking, to reduce its own carbon emissions by putting climate change at the heart of its operations, as well as introducing campaigns and projects to help residents, businesses and organisations to reduce their carbon footprint too.
There are a range of actions including the introduction of two new electric vehicles to the council's refuse collection fleet, which is the council's biggest source of emissions. The council is producing an inspirational film about climate change made with Chichester school students and a professional film company. In addition, two specialist officers have been appointed: one to provide greater support to small and medium-sized enterprises looking to become more sustainable, and the second to increase engagement with not-for-profit organisations and households to help them reduce their emissions.
These are just a few of the actions that the council has been taking since it declared a climate emergency in 2019 and set a district-wide target to aspire to of 10% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions every year until 2025. The Government released the 2020 emission figures last year, which showed that the district's emissions had reduced by 8.7%.
"From investing in electric refuse collection vehicles and working to improve the energy efficiency within council buildings, and increasing tree planting within the district, the council is progressing a number of major projects to help reduce carbon emissions within its own work and across the district over the coming months and years," says Councillor Penny Plant, Cabinet member for the Environment and Chichester Contract Services at Chichester District Council.
"While the council's own carbon emissions equate to less than 0.5% of the district's emissions as a whole, the council decided to set an ambitious carbon reduction target to act as a call to action and to help unite the efforts of individuals and organisations across the district. Although it was recognised that this would be challenging to meet, the target was chosen to reflect the urgent nature of the current climate crisis and the emission reductions that the council felt needed to be worked towards, rather than what was easily achievable.
"Much of the reduction seen in the 2020 figures will have come from reduced road transport and is likely to be linked with Covid restrictions. The fact that emissions in the district did not reduce further, despite the huge lifestyle changes caused by Covid restrictions, shows the scale of the challenge we face when tackling the effects of climate change."
The council set a similar 10% reduction target for its own operations. These emissions are estimated by the council so this data is available sooner, but the time period is different. For the first year of the target (October 2019- September 2020), the council is reporting a 12% reduction in its emissions. One of the biggest reductions was achieved at Westgate Leisure Centre, which has a swimming pool and is the council's second biggest source of emissions.
For the second year (October 2020-September 2021), the council is reporting a further 4% reduction. Emissions for the following year (October 2021-September 2022) will be estimated in the next couple of months. However, it will not be until the year after (October 2022-September 2023) that a number of key projects aimed at reducing emissions will start to make an impact and that the benefit of this work will start to be seen.
Penny adds: "I'm really pleased to say that a major project to reduce emissions from Westgate Leisure Centre will be completed soon. The large pool hall roof has been covered with solar panels that will generate electricity and heat, with further electricity generating panels (PV panels) on other roofs at the centre. These — together with a newly installed air source heat pump — should reduce the centre's emissions by almost a quarter. Our partners, Everyone Active, which run the council's leisure centres, are reducing energy use in other ways, for example, through switching to LED lighting and turning lighting off when not needed.
"We have also recently completed a project to improve the energy efficiency of the council's older block of short stay accommodation, which we anticipate will reduce its energy use by 54%, leading to reduced emissions. We're looking forward to receiving our two new electric refuse vehicles this spring, which will significantly reduce our emissions over the coming months and years.
"Looking forward, it is difficult to predict future emission figures. Weather and post-Covid lifestyles affect emissions, as well as changes to the services offered by the council. For example, in March 2022, the council expanded its short-stay accommodation for residents facing homelessness. The building has been built with biodiversity in mind and with PV panels and two electric vehicle charge points. However, it is a new facility that will add to the council's emission consumption.
"The council's regenerated St James' Industrial Estate will also re-open this year, which will help support local businesses and boost the local economy. It is important to note that this will impact on the council's emission figure even though the materials used and the installation of PV panels and electric vehicle charging points will mean that the new site will have a reduced carbon footprint.
"Setting a target that requires the council to make a 10% reduction in the first year, and further 10% yearly reductions, is challenging. Projects and timelines often need to adapt, as the Covid pandemic has clearly demonstrated. Lists of options need to be drawn up, assessed for feasibility, costings obtained, and funding secured. The delivery times for energy efficiency and renewable energy equipment — even common components — can be very long, and installers have to be found. However, it is important to set an ambitious target so that we are focused on what we are striving to achieve.
"Although the council accounts for less than 0.5% of the district's emissions, we must all play our part, and at the end of last year, we put together a video highlighting some of the many actions that we've been taking as part of our climate change strategy update."
Further information on the work that the council is doing on climate change view the council's Climate Emergency Action Plan.
Date of release: 1 February 2023