Tackling climate change at a local level
Cllr Sam Corcoran, Leader of Cheshire East Council
21st May 2021
The impacts of climate change are already being felt around the world. The average temperature at the end of November across the Arctic was 12 degrees Fahrenheit above normal. We have seen exceptional heatwaves in Siberia, fires in Australia and extreme weather events in UK leading to increased instances of flooding, including in Cheshire East. As David Attenborough has eloquently highlighted we are in the midst of a mass extinction of wildlife, with a potentially catastrophic loss of biodiversity.
The response to Covid-19 has shown that dramatic action is possible. We have shown that we can reduce travel, change the way we work and that it is possible to make more use of local shops, and businesses. We have seen that funding can be found when necessary and Covid-19 has also demonstrated that acting sooner reduces the overall impact – that is an important lesson for dealing with climate change.
As a large unitary council, Cheshire East is well placed to help reduce waste and increase recycling, through both its kerbside collections and its Household Waste Recycling Centres. A trial is being run in Cheshire East with two kerbside waste collection vehicles running on hydrogen generated on site from wind and solar power. We are responsible for highways and transport, so can influence travel behaviours and can also plant trees on verges. Through planning policies we can influence commuting patterns an promote active travel. We have our own estate of tenant farms and so can work with and through others to influence farming practices and re-introduce peat bogs.
We are implementing a Carbon Action Plan which outlines how we will become carbon neutral by 2025 – one of the most ambitious targets in the country. This will be achieved by reviewing the use of our buildings, fleet, energy supply and travel across the whole council. We have also introduced the concept of ‘insetting’ where we will be developing renewable energy, tree planting and different land management practices within the Borough to enable both the council and our business community to offset carbon emissions within Cheshire East - thereby maximising the environmental benefit for our communities. Furthermore, we are promoting sustainable transport through the development of active travel networks and electric vehicle charging infrastructure.
This Carbon Action Plan is not just about the council reducing its emissions. It also commits the council to working with others across Cheshire East to help them reduce their carbon emissions. Working with Leaders in the sub-region and the Local Enterprise Partnership we have established a ‘Sustainable & Inclusive Growth Commission’ for Cheshire and Warrington. One of the biggest challenges we want to tackle through this commission is reducing carbon from housing. As we emerge from the coronavirus pandemic a major programme to improve insulation and retrofit low carbon energy into homes, particularly social housing, could help boost the economy, provide employment, improve health and reduce carbon emissions.
To help reduce carbon emissions from travel councils could provide electric car charging points on council car parks and offer lower parking charges for electric cars. We can all play a part by walking and cycling more and using our cars less – and this is good for our health as well being good for the planet.
The diet we eat can also have a significant impact on our carbon footprint. Wasting less food, buying local, seasonal food and eating less red meat will reduce our carbon footprints and again it is good for our health.
Politics has an important role to play. As community leaders, politicians can set the pace and tone - setting an example in the way they lead their own councils in becoming carbon neutral. They can also help shape public opinion and work with partners to set out a way forward. With clear leadership we can tackle this climate emergency and enhance our communities.