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Council Agrees Strategy For Net-Zero Carbon But Plan Not Ready For The Public

Published on: 16 Aug, 2020
Updated on: 7 Sep, 2020

By Hugh Coakley

A press release from Guildford Borough Council has announced that a “new high-level action plan”, agreed by the council’s Executive, will help it continue to work towards achieving net-zero carbon by 2030.

But despite the council announcing the plan in late July, it will not be issued to the public until later this year.

A spokesperson told The Guildford Dragon NEWS: “We haven’t published the report yet as it is still being finalised and prepared as a public document.

“We were keen to publicise the Executive’s decision to agree the plan and the document itself will follow later in the autumn.”

There had been calls late last year for the newly formed Climate Change Innovations Board, now chaired by Cllr Jan Harwood (Lib Dem, Merrow), lead councillor for climate change, to “act with transparency and open themselves to scrutiny” (see GBC climate change strategy board not open to public) but, to date, residents do not appear to have been involved in setting the action plan or even been given the opportunity to review it.

The council’s statement said the agreed action plan will allow development of projects focusing on energy, planning and infrastructure, all significant contributors towards carbon emissions.

It also plans a carbon literacy training programme for councillors and council employees and fund a climate change officer.

Cllr Jan Harwood

Cllr Jan Harwood said: “The action plan will include how we can realistically work collaboratively with partners and the wider community to have a more joined-up approach. We will play our part by creating a more secure and sustainable power generation and supply infrastructure across the borough.”

The council declared a climate emergency in July 2019 and said it had taken important steps towards reducing its carbon footprint since then.

Cllr Harwood added: “Alone, energy use accounts for 80% of all council emissions. A crucial step for the council will be switching to low carbon systems as well as reducing our energy demand via energy efficiency measures.

“Over the last 10 years, we have invested approximately £10 million on initiatives on our own estate and in our social housing and have already achieved significant carbon reductions. We are continuing to invest in LED lighting, air-source heat pumps, solar PV installations, building insulation measures, boiler replacements and variable speed drives.

Charging point for electric vehicles in the car park adjacent to Guildford’s Waitrose store.

“The council continues to play a key role in encouraging the transition to electric vehicles via its ‘EV by default’ fleet policy and has agreed for the installation of 20 new electric vehicle charging points.

We also set up the Easit network scheme, a greener travel initiative which enables key employers across the borough to offer discounts to their staff in order to increase the use of public transport and electric vehicles.

“GBC continues to play a key role in encouraging the transition to electric vehicles.”

“Another significant step was making our meetings paperless which will have a large impact on our carbon footprint and make savings of £18,000 per annum.”

The chairman of Guildford Environmental Forum, Adrian Thompson, said: “We strongly support the council’s desire to achieve net-zero carbon in the management of its own estate by 2030. The climate emergency is now more urgent than ever and we are concerned by the lack of a co-ordinated plan to tackle it across the wider community, which accounts for 98% of Guildford’s carbon emissions.”

A spokesperson for Extinction Rebellion Guildford said: “We are pleased to see that the council is continuing to work on its carbon emissions reduction plans, including hiring a dedicated climate change staff member. We look forward to liaising with the new officer and offering our expertise and volunteer support wherever possible.

“We want the council to push its climate targets further, in line with scientific advice. This includes committing to making the whole borough carbon neutral by 2030 rather than just the council’s own estate, which only represents a fraction of Guildford’s emissions. Guildford has the opportunity to be a climate leader, and public support for climate action has never been higher.

“Investing in an ambitious range of climate projects is the best way to support local businesses and jobs, retain some of the benefits of lockdown (like reduced air pollution and flourishing wildlife), and maintain Guildford’s well-earned reputation as a healthy and happy place to live.”

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Responses to Council Agrees Strategy For Net-Zero Carbon But Plan Not Ready For The Public

  1. Jim Allen Reply

    August 16, 2020 at 9:35 pm

    In 2005, we installed solar hot water, room air heat exchange, (ventilation) with no draughts and improved noise insulation, and deeper loft insulation at home. With 23 photo voltaic panels, we generate electricity from 0600 to 1900 in the summer in our 1908 home.

    Yes, we know all about sustainability, alleged climate change, and house energy efficiency. Why has the council not been doing this for years? And when are they going to move from paper ideas to practical action?

    The readers could also move from commentary to installation to do their bit. Talking shops and paper shuffling is time wasting.

    Action, not words on placards and going for walks in town centres will save our planet. I’m doing my bit, what about you?

  2. John Lomas Reply

    August 16, 2020 at 10:21 pm

    I wonder just what the authorities, national or local, are intending to do about charging electric vehicles where front doors emerge straight onto the pavement and there is no off road parking for those residents. Here is just a random snap.

    I don’t know what proportion of dwellings are like that in Guildford, but in Lancashire where I now live, I would estimate it at between 50% and 60% in local areas though possibly as low as 20% for the entire borough.

  3. Lisa Wright Reply

    August 17, 2020 at 1:22 pm

    Oh the irony!

    This is offensive to the core, a council that somehow has justified the destruction of hundreds of acres of our countryside thinks it can impress us with its ‘paper free policies’. I’d love to know how they are going to offset the carbon capture lost from all those fields they chose to concrete and the additional car pollution it will all cause.

    Come on GBC, let’s see your options for mitigation of the Local Plan.

  4. Sue Hackman Reply

    August 17, 2020 at 9:00 pm

    Where is the news? Why can’t we be told what is in the plan? We elected the council and we will pay for the implementation, so why the secrecy?

    Wouldn’t it be better to be build understanding and consensus around the proposals instead of keeping voters at bay until it’s a fait accompli?

    Sue Hackman is Campaign Manager for the Guildford Labour Party.

    • George Potter Reply

      August 18, 2020 at 11:09 am

      Lots of information on what’s going to be in the plan can be read on the council website as part of the agenda for the relevant committee or Executive meeting where the decision was made. The reports to those meetings may not contain all the final details but they definitely provide the broad outline of what’s being agreed.

      In addition to that, councillors of all parties are able to attend meetings and ask questions if there are any details which they’re unsure about. I attended the Executive meeting in question as a backbench councillor and was quite satisfied with what I heard during the meeting.

      Since Labour councillors didn’t come along to listen in and to ask questions (in contrast to Lib Dems, GGG and the Conservatives) then could I suggest that Labour party members, and the public in general, refer to item EX20 on the agenda of the meeting in question and watch the webcast of the meeting itself:

      It also bears repeating that this is an internal plan relating primarily to what GBC will do to make itself carbon neutral. The work to make the borough as a whole carbon neutral will be primarily external facing and will have to involve very heavy public engagement right from the beginning.

      One unfortunate consequence of Covid-19 is that the public meetings originally planned on this topic this spring had to be cancelled. For my part, I hope that this kind of public involvement will be resumed as soon as possible.

      George Potter is a Lib Dem borough councillor for Burpham

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