Cabinet unanimously backs Council’s climate emergency plan

Cornwall Council’s Cabinet has today given unanimous approval to the Council’s trailblazing plan to tackle the climate emergency and help Cornwall cut its carbon footprint.

Proposals to be developed include planting carbon-absorbing woodlands across the Duchy, powering all new homes in Cornwall with alternative energy sources under a planning shake-up and making energy efficiency improvements to existing Council- owned homes.

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The Cabinet backing comes after the Council declared a climate emergency earlier this year and unveils its initial plans to help Cornwall strive towards becoming carbon neutral, ahead of the Government’s national target of 2050.

Around 3,000 residents across Cornwall have already had their say in prioritising the first measures to tackle climate change.

In today’s (July 24) Cabinet meeting at New County Hall there was applause from the public gallery as the vote was made for the climate change report which received cross-party support.

Among the Council’s first proposals are:

  • A Forest for Cornwall to be planted over the next 10 years and covering around 32 square miles – about two per cent of Cornwall’s land mass. It would increase canopy cover in the region substantially, absorb a critical amount of carbon and support wildlife.
  • A new climate change planning shake-up to strengthen existing policies in the Local Plan to promote renewable energy, environmental growth and energy-efficient homes, increasing employment opportunities and generating more of our own energy.
  • A whole-house retrofit pilot which would see energy efficiency improvements fitted to Cornwall Housing homes, helping reduce fuel poverty for residents on low incomes.

Councillors today agreed to prioritise £1.7m to be spent on the first phase of the Forest for Cornwall and retrofit pilot with the money coming from a £16m fund already allocated for low carbon investments.

The Council will also bid for £500,000 in match funding from the Government’s Urban Tree Challenge Fund to reduce the cost of developing the Forest for Cornwall.

The climate change report stresses that Cornwall Council cannot tackle the climate crisis alone and says getting to carbon neutral will require significant changes for all residents in Cornwall, from how energy is used in the home, our transport choices and how food is bought.

Cornwall’s carbon emissions are split among the following sectors: commercial and industrial - 23%; road transport - 22%; residential - 21%; agriculture - 19%; waste - 6%; aviation - 1.5%; marine navigation - 0.75%; rail transport - 0.75%.

To deliver these ambitious outcomes the report says support is needed from all sectors – communities, businesses, schools, public sector partners, the voluntary sector and others.

The Council is now working towards the following aims:

  • Improving energy efficiency that reduces demand for energy across the economy
  • Helping residents to make choices that lead to lower carbon emissions
  • Promoting public transport, walking and cycling.
  • Increased electrification in the key areas of transport and heating
  • Expansion of renewable energy generation
  • Carbon capture and storage to reduce emissions that enter the atmosphere
  • Change the way land is used and developed to tackle the climate emergency

The report is considered to be the start of a journey and the Council has begun a climate conversation in Cornwall involving speaking to more than 800 people at the Royal Cornwall Show, nearly 1,000 residents in 21 town centres and an online survey which was filled in by over 1,000 people to inform the emerging plans.

Among the top things people said the Council could do to help Cornwall become carbon neutral were planting more trees, helping nature and wildlife thrive, making it easier to reduce single use plastics and making it easier to reduce and recycle waste, all of which are reflected in the Council’s aims and first proposals in development.

Edwina Hannaford, Cornwall’s Cabinet Member for Climate Change and Neighbourhoods, said:  “While this report is a significant milestone in tackling the climate emergency and we are acting faster than the Government and other local authorities, we know that further planning is needed to provide a robust and evidence-based plan that wins the hearts and minds of all our residents.

“As a Council, we have a leading role to play in the climate emergency and Cornwall is uniquely placed to meet this challenge to reduce our impact of global warming. Exploring future technological advances will be to key to reducing our carbon footprint so that we ensure a prosperous and sustainable Cornwall for everyone.

“I want to thank people in our communities who are already taking positive climate change action that we can build on together in our journey towards becoming carbon neutral.”

The Council is asking the Government to give greater priority to addressing the climate emergency including committing the UK to increasing its renewable electricity generation and bringing forward a ban on the sale of petrol and diesel vehicles to 2030. 

The Council is continuing to explore ways to make public transport more affordable and to enable residents and businesses to switch to ultra-low emission vehicles.

The climate change report says Cornwall’s measures to tackle climate change could result in health benefits for residents from better air quality, warmer homes, increases in walking and cycling and healthier diets.

Doing this would not only be better for the environment and residents but could in turn reduce health and social inequalities and lessen the demand on the NHS and social care, the report adds.

Cornwall Council has already shown leadership through the nationally renowned Green Cornwall Programme which delivered energy efficiency improvement in over 3,000 homes, the UK’s first collective energy saving in excess of £500,000 for Cornish residents and England’s first community energy revolving loan fund.

Cornwall Council was also the first local authority to develop its own solar farm and its Environmental Growth Strategy to make Cornwall’s environment more diverse led to the Making Space for Nature programme which has transformed 40 hectares of urban areas into wildlife-rich green spaces.

The Council also spearheaded the Local Transport Plan – Connecting Cornwall which has supported substantial transport service improvements in Cornwall since 2011 including the One Public Transport Scheme for Cornwall to provide a joined up public transport system across rail, bus and ferry services.

The number of bus journeys has gone up from 10.6m to 11.7m over the last year supported by the introduction of 92 new low-emission buses.

The Council’s existing number of electric charge points in public carparks and other locations are also being increased and the Council was recently awarded over £90K for five new charge points across Cornwall specifically for use by taxis to charge electric or plug-in hybrid vehicles.