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County council aim for 2030 carbon neutrality

Thursday, December 12th, 2019 8:10am

By Daniel Clark, Local Democracy Reporting Service

They had previously set a 2050 target date

Devon County Council has set a target date of 2030 for it to achieve carbon neutrality.

Last Thursday’s full council meeting saw councillors unanimously back a motion put forward by Cllr Jacqi Hodgson calling for the date to be reconsidered.

The council had previously set a 2050 target date to become carbon neutral, but the councillor had called for this to be revised down to 2025.

The ruling cabinet though suggested that 2030 was the date they aim to be carbon neutral by and that through its role in the Devon Climate Emergency Response Group, encourage the Net-Zero Task Force to be ambitious in its drafting of the Devon Carbon Plan.

Cllr Hodgson said she was happy to accept the amendment and thanked the cabinet for bringing forward the target date to 2030.

The same meeting also unanimously agreed to revise the authority’s energy and carbon strategy in response to the climate emergency which they declared earlier in 2019.

The carbon footprint has already fallen by almost 40 per cent since 2012/13 – and they council expects to hit their 50 per cent reduction target next year, nine years earlier than planned.

The authority will now aim to reach a 70 per cent reduction by 2030, with the remainder of the carbon footprint offset at levels which will gradually increase to reach carbon neutrality by 2030, initially through government-approved tree planting schemes.

They will retain its existing target to source 30 per cent of its energy requirement from renewable sources by 2030 and incrementally increasing the percentage of the remaining carbon footprint that is offset, from five per cent in the current year to 100 per cent by 2030.

Cllr Hodgson added: “I welcome this and good it has come forward. We need to look a bit more carefully about the implications of offsetting, but at least we have a framework in position and that is to be welcomed.”

Leader of the council, Cllr John Hart, added: “This is the start and not the end. 2030 is an end date but it may get shortened. We are putting this out and working with experts who know what they are talking about.”

Dave Black, Head of Planning, Transportation and Environment, in his report to the meeting, added: “The recommendation demonstrates the necessary local leadership to accelerate the decarbonisation of Devon, the UK and, indeed, the globe that is required to avoid the worst effects of climate change on our communities.

“It also provides an opportunity for wider environmental enhancement and community resilience through the development of carbon offset schemes in Devon.

“Reducing the corporate carbon footprint by 70 per cent by 2030 will avoid £3.4m in energy costs in comparison to the existing 50 per cent target. The costs of meeting the target are currently unknown due to uncertainties about the speed at which technologies will be brought to market and their cost competitiveness; but there will be costs, some of which will offer a return on investment and others won’t.

“The Environmental Performance Board will monitor achievement against these ambitious and challenging targets, plus any future opportunities to exceed these, and refer these back to Cabinet for review as necessary.”

Thursday’s meeting though saw councillors agree not to amend the Declaration of a Climate Emergency to include an Ecological Emergency, saying that no further action on this motion submitted by Cllr Hodgson need be taken, given that agreement on this issue has already been reached through the Devon Climate Emergency Response Group.

She had called for councillors to vote for her motion, saying that the collapse of ecosystems doesn’t just affect wildlife but humans too and there is an urgent need for a response and an important recognition of the emergency that we face.

But councillors voted in favour of the cabinet amendment saying that the issued has already been actioned.

It came though after a slip of the tongue from chairman of the council, Cllr John Matthews, which brought laughter to the chamber.

Instead of asking for a show of hands for those in favour, he mistakenly asked for people to vote in favour of the motion, before quickly correcting himself and saying ‘or you may vote against if you wish’.

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