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Knowsley tackles climate change

by Cathy Sheel

Knowsley Council’s successes in tackling climate change and reducing its carbon emissions come under the spotlight at a meeting of the council’s Climate Emergency Scrutiny Committee this week.

Members will consider a report outlining progress made since the council’s Declaration of a Climate Emergency earlier this year and a draft Climate Emergency Action Plan which will detail the next steps in reducing carbon emissions from the council’s estate and services.

The committee will also considered the potential impacts of the Covid 19 pandemic on addressing climate change and decide whether carbon emissions from other sites, including council-run primary schools, should be included in the reduction targets. Read the full report.

In January, Knowsley Council agreed to make the Declaration of a Climate Emergency, in response to current and predicted levels of global warming and the need to take immediate, local and significant action.

Councillors pledged that the council would aim to reduce emissions from its own estate and services to net zero by 2040 – a full ten years before the Government’s own target.

Good progress is already being made in Knowsley – the council has successfully achieved a 59% reduction in carbon emissions since 2009/10. Meanwhile borough wide carbon emissions have also fallen by 43% since 2005.

In 2018, the largest proportion of emissions in Knowsley was from businesses (38%), followed by road transport (32%) and housing (30%).

The report states that recovery from the Covid pandemic presents an opportunity to ensure that the ‘new normal’ encourages measures to reduce carbon emissions. These include schemes to support businesses and householders to lower their energy and water use, alongside investment in renewable energy and sustainable transport.

With increased home working due to the Covid 19 pandemic, the council has seen an 87% reduction in the use of electricity and a 61% fall in gas use at the Huyton Municipal Building.

The draft action plan includes a number of actions needed to reduce the council’s carbon emissions.

1. Green spaces for carbon offsetting and climate resilience – this will include significant tree planting and providing more environmental education and allotments.
2. Reducing carbon emissions from street lighting – implementation of the low energy LED lighting replacement programme.
3. Reducing carbon emissions from fleet vehicles, maintenance plant and equipment – Increasing the use of electric vehicles with the aim of ultimately replacing all the fleet with electric and/or hydrogen vehicles.
4. Reducing carbon emissions from energy and water use in council buildings – Existing council buildings will be made more efficient, new council buildings will be built with efficiency in mind.
5. Reducing carbon emissions from waste from Council services – Making it easier than ever to recycle, potentially with more recycling points in council buildings, ensuring staff understand how to recycle correctly.
6. Reducing carbon emissions from staff travel on council business – Investigate the feasibility of providing and encouraging the use of low carbon pool cars and electric cycles;
7. Sustainable energy generation – Incorporate the generation of sustainable energy into council buildings.
8. Reducing carbon emissions through commissioning and procurement – by the use of local suppliers and green supply chain, including investigating the possibility of inserting carbon emissions reporting requirements into major contracts.
9. Reducing carbon emissions through communication and staff behaviour change.
10. Embedding carbon reduction and climate action across the Council’s plans, policies and services.

Following comments from councillors a revised action plan will be considered in the autumn, with a view to gaining approval of the final action plan in November 2020. A separate action plan will be developed for reducing carbon emissions across the borough of Knowsley.

Cllr Shelley Powell, who put forward the Notice of Motion to formally declare a Climate Emergency in Knowsley earlier this year, said: “It may sound alarming, but to formally acknowledge the challenge facing the climate as an ‘emergency’ is an important statement. It says we recognise and understand the scale and urgency of this challenge – and most importantly we are going to take robust, immediate and local action to address it.

“And while I’m delighted to see that we have made some great progress in achieving – and even exceeding – our carbon emission reduction targets in recent years, we recognise we still have work to do to achieve our goal to reduce emissions from our own buildings and services to net zero by 2040.”