Frequently Asked Questions

For further information, please look through our Frequently Asked Questions about the Climate Change Emergency below or for more in depth detail please view our Climate Change Cabinet papers - see item 6.

On the 22nd January 2019, a motion was passed by Cornwall Councillors to declare a climate emergency. The minutes of that meeting are available online for you to view. The motion resolved that the council would:

  1. Declare a climate emergency
  2. Call on Westminster to provide the powers and resources necessary to achieve the target for Cornwall to become carbon neutral by 2030 and commit to work with other Councils with similar ambitions
  3. Provide adequate staff time and leadership to prepare a report within six months to establish how Cornwall can sufficiently reduce carbon emissions through energy and other Council Strategies, plans and contracts within a timescale which is consistent with an ambition to restrain Global Warming to 1.5oC. This will draw together the actions Cornwall Council is already and will continue to take; and where possible, outline partners’ commitments to move towards a carbon neutral Cornwall by 2030

A ‘Climate Emergency’ declaration can be described as a majority agreement by a democratically elected body, or public interest group to recognise the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report on 1.5oC global warming and to publicly declare actions to address this. The resolution by Cornwall Council is part of an internationally recognised declaration that requires a target date for a reduction in emissions or carbon neutrality consistent with the IPCC Report of October 2018.

The wording of the motion outlines a ‘target for Cornwall to become carbon neutral by 2030’. As a unitary authority Cornwall Council has a key role to play in enabling and empowering all relevant stakeholders to commit to a carbon neutral future. Cornwall is the first unitary authority to declare a climate emergency and probably one of the largest places by area. With a mainly rural economy and limited infrastructure there are many challenges ahead, but with adequate resource and support from central government, together with working in partnership with local stakeholders we know that we can help the people of Cornwall reach the carbon neutral goal that is critical for a sustainable future.

The IPCC Report (SR15) considers the impacts of the range of temperature increases agreed with the Paris Agreement to be limited to 1.5oC to 2.0oC and concludes that there is a massive difference in outcome between the lower and upper 0.5oC range and that there are significant advantages in limiting this to 1.5oC, which is also technically feasible. It warns that if rises of no more than 1.5oC are to be achieved then action is required immediately

In terms of coastal flooding caused by accelerated sea level rise and fluvial flooding caused by increased storminess due to climate change, the SR15 report provides a qualitative assessment of impacts at 1.5oC to 2.0oC, Figure 1 below. Note that we are currently at around the 0.8oC to 1.0oC above

For fluvial (river) flooding, the present day situation raises the risk from moderately low at present 1oC temperature rise to moderate for a 1.5oC temperature rise and to moderate –high for a 2oC temperature rise with medium confidence. For coastal (sea) flooding, the present day situation raises the risk from moderate –high at present 1oC temperature rise to high for a 1.5oC temperature rise and to high-very high for a 2oC temperature rise with high confidence. These estimates are related to global impacts and are not specific to Cornwall.

A study carried out by Cornwall County Council in 2008 concluded that sea level rise could result in the following impacts for Cornwall over 100 years, based on the present 1oC scenario:

  • 600-700 ha land lost
  • 15-30km of roads lost
  • 95-135 ha of urban areas submerged

This would clearly increase significantly for the 1.5oC and especially 2oC scenarios. Slowing the anticipated rise in sea levels would allow more time for coastal communities to react and adapt.

In Cornwall we live with a certain amount of climate risk. As a peninsula, we act as the ‘break-weather’ for the southern part of the United Kingdom from our predominantly south-westerly weather streams. For example in the past we have experience flooding from the sea and from rivers after periods of intense rainfall.

With a changing climate we are likely to experience more extremes of weather variation, although we may not see more rainfall in total (drier summers, wetter winters), the pattern of rainfall may change to more intense, storm-like conditions which affect both our coasts and rivers. In the long term we will need to work with nature and natural processes to limit the impact of these extreme conditions.

It is always good to be prepared for such extreme events and we would encourage all of the communities in Cornwall to work with the Councils emergency planning team to develop community emergency plans.

The Council is currently reviewing the resource requirements necessary to enable the creation of an action plan to outline the tasks required for Cornwall to achieve carbon neutrality by 2030. With six months to write this plan, it is important that all the relevant service departments within the Council work together. There is also a need for wider stakeholder involvement, as there are many groups and individuals in Cornwall that are as passionate about a sustainable carbon neutral future as the Councillors have demonstrated.

An engagement strategy is being developed which will bring together the thoughts, ideas and suggestions of all the interested parties in Cornwall. Cornwall Council recognise that we all have a stake in our future and will endeavour to ensure that the process of action planning is both inclusive and transparent.

You have made the first step, by reading through these FAQs and by following a few of the links on the webpage you are increasing your knowledge surrounding the declaration and we hope that you will share this with your friends, families and colleagues.

On an individual level you may want to look at committing to the '10 pledges to reduce my carbon emissions', available on the Climate Vision website, and encourage your family, friends and colleagues to do so too.

You may want to encourage your local town or parish council to offer their support to the declaration or make a declaration of their own. We will be working with community networks to enable this in the near future, but positive support from you will help bring about the changes we are going to need to make.

In the meantime, if you have a suggestion or an idea or just want to offer to help, please contact us,and we will keep you updated with the process.

‘Carbon neutral’ is about achieving net zero carbon emissions by balancing a measured amount of carbon released with an equivalent amount sequestered or offset, or buying enough carbon credits to make up the difference. So whatever is being made or done, the amount of carbon that is captured or offset is as much carbon that has been produced to make or do that thing. For example, a house with solar panels that sends renewable energy to the grid that is equal to the energy it uses from the grid can deem its energy use as carbon neutral.

This differs from ‘zero carbon’ which is when no carbon was emitted in the first place, so no carbon needs to be captured or offset. For example, a household that is off-grid, running entirely on solar, and using zero fossil fuels can label its energy “zero carbon.”

Yes and no. Achieving carbon neutrality will require a broad range of initiatives from green energy and transport to creating space for environmental growth to offset some of the things we cannot change. As a rural authority with limited infrastructure achieving carbon neutrality will first require an analysis of what our carbon budget actually is (i.e. how much we are producing).

There may be some ‘quick wins’ in reducing our deficit, but in the short and medium term we will look at how we can better work with nature to absorb or offset some of emission production. This will be done utilising Cornwall’s Environmental Growth Strategy, improving energy efficiency and increasing our usage of renewable energy. In the long-term we hope that National Government will give us the resources to change our reliance on fossil fuels and improve or create the infrastructure necessary for a sustainable future.

We have been working to improve our public transport system, increasing the number of council offices with access to renewable energy and changing our street lighting regime. The street lighting scheme has not only safeguarded our night skyscapes but has also saved over £26M in energy and maintenance costs and contributed to a reduction in CO2 emissions.

Our waste strategy is focussed on reducing the production of waste and encouraging reuse and recycling as more sustainable methods of waste management.

We have committed to become single use plastic free by 2020 and councillors recently supported a motion to also go paperless, both actions reducing the waste we produce.

We are taking action to address poor air quality. Last year Cornwall Council organised events in St Austell, Camelford and Launceston to raise awareness and take action for National Clean Air Day (21 June) encouraging local residents in doing their bit to improve air quality. This is supported by our One Public Transport Strategy which aims to get more people using public transport, reducing congestion and helping air quality.

Finally, Cornwall uses an estimated £500m worth of energy each year. Much of this energy is imported from outside Cornwall and is largely dependent upon fossil fuel consumption, which is why we’re supporting a broad range of renewable and low carbon infrastructure, including wind, geothermal, and wave power.

Aside from signing up for the 10 pledges right now, if you want to do your bit, we recommend that you start to think about how you benefit from the environment around you and just how important green space is; you could plant more trees, allow hedges to mature in your garden, or local community spaces which will act as natural carbon sinks. The Council has a Seed Fund available to support communities wanting to do this, which you can view and apply for.

If you are local business, and want to know what you can do, please contact Teviand visit their website.

For even more ideas please visit the Grow Nature website which has lots of activities and inspiration.

To keep up-to-date with all the news surrounding biodiversity, climate change and the environment please sign up to LNP e-newsletter which will include details of collective action and related projects.

Whilst we all need to work hard to reduce our emissions and carbon foot print in an effort to limit global temperature rise to 1.5oC or lower, it is important to recognise that learning to adapt to changing climate will be critical to a long term sustainable future. Adaptation needs to form part of our response to the declaration of a climate emergency to expand the options we have available to mitigate the impact of climate change.

Cornwall Council has already been working on adaptation strategies to encourage better use of available resources; including a change in working practices that allows for more homeworking or flexible conditions.

The Catchments and Coasts team are working with Planning and Neighbourhood Development Plans to introduce Coastal Change Management Areas. This will help to raise awareness of the issues within local communities and ensure that only sustainable and appropriate development occurs in areas likely to be affected by coastal erosion and sea flooding over the next 100 years.

A 25 year investment strategy in flood and coastal erosion resilience has been drafted which seeks to work with natural processes and reduce our reliance on large scale constructed defences. This is linked to Cornwall’s Environmental Growth Strategy adopted in 2016.

This strategy forms the backbone of our existing efforts to use the natural environment to help us adapt to climate change. Our focus is on making more space for nature wherever possible in our gardens, schools, public parks, coastal areas, farmland and industrial estates. We are driving some fantastic projects such as Green Infrastructure for Growth and supporting businesses to make Cornwall greener. The Cornwall Canopy Action plan focuses on increasing the extent (and quality) of our trees, woodlands and hedges.

Flights from Cornwall Airport Newquay represent about between 1.5 % and 2% (67,747 tCO2e) of Cornwall’s greenhouse gas footprint.  

The Council’s view is that the airport provides an important public service providing transport links that are important for Cornwall’s economy.  However in the light of the current climate emergency consideration is being given as to whether:

  • Cornwall Council should actively promote additional use of Cornwall Airport Newquay.
  • How the emissions associated with flights to and away from the airport can be drawn down through carbon sequestration projects in-order to enable Cornwall to achieve its carbon neutral ambitions.

Since Cornwall Council took over the airport emissions associated with operating the airport (i.e. buildings and lights rather than the planes) have reduced by approximately 20% and the Council’s airport Operation Company has been awarded the Airport’s Carbon Accreditation standard for its efforts.

Cornwall currently generates about 37% of our annual electricity demand from renewables.  This will have to increase many times over if we are going to achieve carbon neutral as we will not only have to generate renewables to meet our current electricity demand but we will also have to start switching to electric cars and using electricity in heat pumps to replace our existing oil, LPG and gas heating systems.

Cornwall Council is working with University of Exeter to look into what kind of technologies we require  and how much of each technology we will need to install to achieve our carbon neutral Cornwall ambitions.  We don’t have the results from this work yet but we do know that the huge scale of this change to renewables will have an impact on our landscape.  As such we must work with communities and renewables developers to ensure that any new renewable electricity generation installed in Cornwall benefits local communities, and any impact it creates on our natural environment and bio-diversity is minimised. 

Cornwall has the third highest number of public charge points of any local authority with 115 chargers - 44 of which Cornwall Council has installed ourselves for public as well as fleet and staff use.  We do however recognise that more charge points are needed and we are working with a Cornish company that has EU funding and is finalising plans to install another 66+ charge points in Cornwall.  This will include more of the fastest chargers (called rapid and ultra-rapid chargers) which can charge cars in 20-40 mins.

Cornwall Council is considering the installation of LED smart street lights but has not made a final decision to install them as of yet.  InstallingLED street lighting combined with smart street lamps could save 4,500 tonnes of carbon and almost £1m per year.  Smart street lamps have sensors in them that detect whether there are cars or people around and dim the street lights where they are not needed.  This is one of the ways they save carbon the other being the use of LEDs as these bulbs save about 75% of the energy used in traditional bulbs.

The Council knows that there are concerns about the ‘cold white’ LEDs having impact on the health of humans and animals so we would install yellow hued coloured LEDs to avoid these risks. These lights would be just as safe as conventional street lights but would still save carbon and money. Smart street lights don’t require 5G and Cornwall Council is not at present planning on installing 5G street lights.  The Council is aware that there is some public concern about the safety of 5G this is however more of an issue around mobile phone networks than necessarily having a link to smart street lights.

Government’s withdrawal of funding to help householders and communities offset the cost of buying solar is reducing demand even though the cost of solar has fallen significantly since the Government’s Feed-in-Tariff (FiT) scheme was introduced in 2010.

The Feed-in-Tariff is currently paid by energy companies and replacing it, like for like, is too big a financial challenge for Local Authority budgets.  However Cornwall Council will look into other ways that we can help householders and communities install solar and other renewables.   Options we are going to investigate are:

  • A council supported collective buying scheme for solar.
  • Community energy financing loans for renewables building on our ‘community energy loan scheme’ and/ or a ‘carbon neutral community grant competition’ targeted at supporting community carbon neutral projects/ buildings.

Joint Statement on Cornwall’s electricity grid

The context:

In recent years the way we generate and use electricity has changed. The carbon reduction targets in the Government’s ‘The Carbon Plan’ have led to high levels of renewable generation being connected in Cornwall. Western Power Distribution’s (WPD) network in the South West was originally designed to take electricity off the National Grid and distribute this to homes and businesses, based around a tea-time peak of just under 3GW.

Over the past decade, WPD has re-engineered the network to accommodate over 3.5GW of distributed generation, whilst simultaneously driving down the end cost to customers. As much of this distributed generation is solar, the peak generation times coincide with periods of low consumer demand. This has caused constraints on both the transmission and distribution networks. WPD has resolved this through conventional reinforcement and also by implementing a flexible Active Network Management system which allows different generation sources to share the same capacity.

Moving forward towards carbon neutral together

Delivering a carbon-neutral Cornwall requires a significant amount of low carbon technologies to be accommodated by the electricity grid both in terms of renewable energy, the electrification of heat and transportation.

Western Power Distribution and Cornwall Council are committed to working together to ensure the future requirements of a carbon-neutral Cornwall are included in WPD’s long term plans. To inform this process Cornwall Council have commissioned the University of Exeter to produce scenarios detailing how Cornwall could become carbon neutral. This work will help frame WPD’s future plans for developing Cornwall’s electricity grid as part of their next review of their South West network, to be completed by Q2 of 2020.

In parallel with this process, in order to enable more generation and low carbon technologies to connect to the grid, WPD is developing a distribution system operator (DSO) capability. This will enable them to operate the network through innovative means by building a smarter, more flexible electricity system.

WPD is already taking on DSO roles by forecasting the areas which require additional energy and putting these requirements out to the marketplace through its Flexible Power (www.flexiblepower.co.uk) brand. Engaging with Flexible Power presents an opportunity for Cornwall to lead the way towards a cleaner, smarter energy system in line with our commitment to respond to the climate emergency.

The wave energy sector has not developed at the pace anticipated when Wave Hub was original planned. Cornwall Council has now taken over Wave Hub and is working hard to try and find the alternative uses for this asset.  We are currently looking into whether it is possible to use the Wave Hub connection to test floating wind turbines off Hayle. 

Floating Wind turbines represent an emerging technology that can be used where the sea is too deep for existing offshore wind turbines which are fixed to the sea bed.  Therefore, using Wave Hub for floating wind provides an opportunity for Cornish companies to get involved early in an industry with global potential, as well as providing a source of clean energy.

Agriculture is a very small emitter of C02 and in broad terms sequesters more than it produces through the management of land and growing of crops.  Therefore the focus for this sector has to be on Methane and Nitrous Oxide emissions.  The emissions produced by livestock together with  fuel use on farms  contribute towards approximately 18% of Cornwall’s carbon footprint in 2016.

Farming can be part of the solution and those involved have already taken significant steps in reducing their impact through improving farming's productive efficiency targeted measures to increase and manage carbon storage on UK farms and boosting the production of land-based renewable energy.  However, more work is required and if Methane emissions from farm wastes are captured these can be turned into a low carbon fuel for use in tractors and other vehicles and potentially even heating systems.  This is something Cornwall Council is actively looking into on our Council Farms estate.

Farmers, landowners and wider environmental land managers are able to lock carbon in the ground through the natural process of ‘carbon sequestration’.  This process currently reduces Cornwall’s carbon footprint by between 3.5% and 4%, and this figure can be increased significantly through changes to land management practices such as planting trees, increasing soil carbon levels and changes in cropping patterns.  Cornwall Council is looking at how our farms estate and other land in our ownership can help us stop climate change through locking more carbon in the ground through natural climate solutions.

Short answer: Cornwall Council’s ambition to achieve carbon neutral by 2030 is based on strong political leadership and public demands for Cornwall to become a leader in demonstrating the kind of rapid action that is needed to stop further climate change.  If Cornwall can do this, and everybody else does the same, we will help to ensure that climate change is stopped before the world faces the worst climate impacts.

Science suggests that to keep temperatures below 1.5°C global carbon emissions would need to reduce by 45% between 2010 and 2030 with everybody in the world becoming carbon neutral by 2050.  The UK government advisors think it is possible for the UK to become carbon neutral by 2050 with known technologies alongside improvements in people’s lives. However if everybody doesn’t become carbon neutral by 2050 there is still some chance that global warming will exceed 1.5°C-2°C and then the impact on the climate could become very bad for people around the world. So even if Cornwall can’t become carbon neutral by 2030 we will need to ensure we can achieve this by 2050. 

Historic buildings all differ and are subject to varying levels of protection under the planning system. They vary in their construction, location, quality of services and the way they are used. Consequently there is no ‘one size fits all’ solution to upgrade their energy efficiency.

Retrofitting can often damage the authenticity, character and setting of a historic building. Our guidance highlights behavioural changes and principles that could be followed to upgrade a historic building whilst retaining its special character. The guide provides local examples of good practice along with current costs and performance details of suitable products. It is intended to be used by local authority staff, building owners, professional agents and contractors at an early stage in the planning process and before Building Control applications.