Council provides update on key steps to tackle climate change in the district
Following the declaration of a Climate Emergency in 2019, Chichester District Council has announced it has been taking 60 actions to reduce carbon emissions across the district, including recently introducing comprehensive carbon literacy training for councillors and staff to help them better address climate change within the council's work.
From increasing tree cover, to launching a ground-breaking project that aims to safeguard and enhance strategic wildlife corridors, tackling climate change has been placed at the heart of the council's operations. Its Climate Emergency Action Plan sets out a range of new and underway actions to reduce the council's carbon footprint and to encourage residents, businesses and organisations to join its approach.
Councillor Jonathan Brown, Cabinet member for Environmental Strategy at Chichester District Council, says: "There is so much to do and we all, and at all levels, need to take action. The council is committed to helping to reduce emissions within its own operations by 10% year-on-year until 2025, taking October 2018 as the baseline or start date. A huge amount of work has already been done to deliver and progress a range of major projects to help achieve this, including introducing two new electric vehicles to the council's refuse collection fleet, and improving the energy efficiency of both the Westgate Leisure Centre and the council's short stay homelessness accommodation. We're also rolling out carbon literacy training for staff to help them better address climate change in their work."
In the first two years, the council's emissions reduced by 12% and 4%, although Covid lockdowns played a large role in this reduction. The latest figures, from October 2021 to September 2022, show that emissions have increased slightly. There are a number of factors explaining the 2% increase. The main factor relates to coming out of the Covid period, with emissions increasing as life started to return to pre-pandemic patterns.
Other factors that have contributed to the rise in emissions during this period include: a significant increase in the use of the council's public electric vehicle charge-points; the opening of a new building to increase the amount of much-needed short-stay accommodation for residents facing homelessness; and, the introduction of an additional data centre that will strengthen the council's ability to operate and deliver vital community services in the event of an emergency.
During the last reporting period, St James' Industrial Estate was being redeveloped and was largely unoccupied by businesses, so the figures show a reduction in emissions from the site. Reopening the regenerated site will increase the council's emission figure. However, it's important to note that the new site is far more energy efficient, featuring electricity-generating PV solar panels on every building and supporting electric vehicle usage with 32 charge points. When fully occupied its emissions will still be significantly lower than they would have been prior to its closure.
Jonathan explains: "Even though it is urgent, positive change still takes time. We anticipate that the benefit of the majority of the actions that we have taken to reduce the council's emissions will only start to be seen in the next set of figures (October 2022 - September 2023).
"At the Westgate Leisure Centre in Chichester, one of the council's biggest sources of emissions, 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, who run the council's leisure centres, are also reducing energy use in other ways. The benefits of this work will soon be reflected in the emissions figures. In the same way, the positive impact of a project to improve the energy efficiency of the council's older short-stay accommodation for people facing homelessness should be seen in the next reporting year."
The council's own carbon emissions equate to a small fraction of the district's emissions, so the council decided to set an ambitious carbon reduction target across the district to unite the efforts of individuals and organisations. Although it was recognised that this would be impossible to meet without major change at a regional and national level, the target of a 10% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions every year until 2025 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. New Government figures for 2021 show that district-wide emissions remained around the same as that of the previous year.
Jonathan comments: "The council accounts for less than 0.5% of the district's emissions, so we are working with residents and businesses to encourage them to do their bit to help us tackle the effects of climate change at a local level, recognising that even this won't be sufficient. Significant changes to the regional and national economy will still be required.
"A specialist officer provides support to small and medium-sized enterprises looking to become more sustainable. Linked to this, we are supporting sustainable businesses with green subsidies in our St James' Industrial Estate. A second specialist officer works to make grants and information available to residents to help them reduce energy usage in their homes and save money. In this way we hope to have a wider impact on emissions from the area rather than focussing solely on the Council's own activities.
"I am pleased to say that members of the public can now hire the council's two electric pool cars through Co Wheels car club when the vehicles are not being used by council officers. You may also have seen that we've recently been working with Chichester Free School students on a youth engagement project to produce an inspirational documentary about climate change. People can watch this climate change film from Chichester Free School and Chichester District Council here.
"These are just some of the ways in which we are working with residents and businesses to help tackle the climate emergency. There are steps - big and small - that everyone can take to make a difference and I would encourage as many people as possible to get involved and participate in projects that help to care for our environment."
Further information on how people can do their bit to help tackle climate change, including how they can save money while helping the environment, can be found on the Chichester District Council Climate Change web page.
Also on this page, people can find out more about the work that the council is doing to help combat the effects of climate change and can find the council's Climate Emergency Action Plan.
Date of Release: 28 July 2023