This Council was one of the first district councils to pledge a Zero Carbon target, even before national government announced it’s Zero Carbon by 2050 legislation. In November 2019, when the Council declared a climate emergency they pledged to:
- Publish a report, within 6 months, about their carbon reduction targets and projects for their own buildings and operations.
- Ensure all strategic decisions, budgets and approaches to planning decisions are in line with a shift to zero carbon
- Ensure the new Greater Cambridge Local Plan fulfils its role in bringing forward net zero carbon development, particularly in new housing and infrastructure, as well as ensuring new development can adapt to our changing climate
- Work with partners across the district to deliver the net zero target through investment (including grants), skills, strategies and planning.
Since then, the Council has worked hard to help achieve what they set out to do. Their Corporate Business plan 2020-25 lists ‘Being Green to our Core’ as a key priority with an ambition to create a cleaner, greener and zero-carbon future for their communities. A Zero Carbon Strategy, adopted on 21 May 2020 communicates how the Council is supporting the district to halve carbon emissions by 2030 and reduce them to zero by 2050, including delivering a reduction of its own carbon footprint of at least 45% by 2025, (on a 2019 baseline), and at least 75% by 2030. Actions to implement the strategy and deliver the targets for carbon emissions reductions will be developed by each of the Council’s Service areas and incorporated into the Council’s Business Plan. Progress on these actions will be monitored by the Climate and Environment Advisory Committee and reported to Cabinet at the end of each year
Bridget Smith, Leader
‘’For the past two years it has been my ambition that South Cambridgeshire be the greenest district council in the country and that has not changed.
Climate change remains the biggest threat to the future of our world, even more so than Covid 19 or even God forbid, any future pandemics. But we undoubtedly have to rethink how we do this in light of significant economic and financial uncertainty and a lack of clarity on how people will be living their lives after this crisis has passed. It may well be that more people will be working from home, it may be that public transport will look very different but we cannot wait for all these questions to be answered before we start to act. Having a really aspirational Zero Carbon Strategy will help us to maintain the improved air quality we now have, to keep people walking and cycling more and hopefully to help us rebuild our economy to be fit for a really low carbon future.’’
Pippa Heylings, Chair of Climate and Environment Advisory Committee:
Covid-19 has changed our world with huge human cost to so many and this will have an impact on all we do. However, it will not make the climate crisis go away. Indeed, scientists have pointed to the likely links between climate change, the destruction of nature and pandemics. Meanwhile, we are already feeling the effects of climate change in the UK through the increased frequency and intensity of storms, flooding and heatwaves; as well as problems with water scarcity and air pollution. We have limited time to act and we need to tackle all these crises at the same time through a green recovery that lifts up communities and businesses in ways that slash carbon emissions and increase our resilience. As a council we have a significant role to play here. Now more than ever, we need our Zero Carbon Strategy to guide the ways in which homes and workplaces are designed and constructed; to ensure that any new development is well served by low carbon transport links like public transport, cycling and walking; and to work in partnership with our communities towards widespread adoption of zero-carbon lifestyles.
£5 million in investment has already been put towards a raft of improvements such as improving the Council’s offices to cut carbon emissions and energy bills, providing communities with grants for projects that cut carbon emissions in their areas, making Council houses more energy efficient and helping people cut the amount of food they waste. Investment for 2020-21 provides further grants for community initiatives to cut carbon emissions and tackle climate change, more money to ‘greening’ its offices and improving energy efficiency of Council homes as well as the replacement of District Council owned streetlights with LEDs and the purchase of an electric bin lorry to see whether it is viable to shift from a diesel to an all-electric fleet.
Lead Cabinet Member for Finance, Cllr John Williams: “Our Zero Carbon Communities grants is a great way of bringing into sharp focus the ways in which we can all do our bit to make positive changes in our own communities. The groups who received help in the first funding round are now working hard to get their projects fully under way, despite the difficulties that Covid restrictions have placed on all community activities. They include organisations like Cambridge Sustainable Food which is running an awareness campaign around the links between carbon emissions and meat and dairy consumption, Cambourne Town Council which has planted1,200 young trees and hedgerows, and Teversham Parish Council which now has e-bikes, lockers and stands for local residents to use. The new projects range from planting forest gardens and community orchards, to ‘greening’ community buildings and setting up cycling schemes. I’m very excited to see how all of these great ideas progress.”