Our planet cannot absorb all the carbon we are making and putting into our atmosphere. To help our planet we have to make significant changes to how we live today.
We have to use our resources to help our planet support everyone now and in the future. For example: Energy production contributes high levels of carbon emissions.
But it is an area we can do something about.
Reducing these emissions needs businesses and households to change how we produce energy. We must use more renewable energy sources such as wind, solar and geothermal. We also have to change how we use energy, by cutting down on the power we use.
Cornwall Council cannot make Cornwall carbon neutral on its own. We need everyone in Cornwall to act now and consider what they can do to reduce their impact on the planet. We all need to take action at home, in the workplace, and across Cornwall as a whole.
The Council is well placed to work with others. We can make the most of Cornwall's collective potential and create solutions together. Making Cornwall carbon neutral will need major investments. We will have to make changes to existing systems of how we use and interact with energy. We must change how we live our lives and define success. We will have to redefine how we manage and interact with our environment.
Above all, to meet this challenge, we need collective leadership and shared ambition.
Our Carbon Neutral Cornwall Action Plan sets out Cornwall Council's plans to become carbon neutral by 2030.
We heard from over 3,000 residents on the first projects they would like the Council to focus on. The Council is already delivering on those priorities identified during our early engagement.
We have made a good start and now we need everyone to get involved. We want everyone to shape Cornwall's vision for reaching carbon neutrality. If we all make small changes to how we live, together we can make practical changes on a huge scale.
The 'Carbon Neutral Cornwall Call to Action' explains how Cornwall can become carbon neutral.
The Council is working with partners, organisations and businesses on new initiatives and innovations to help address climate change. You can read about some of those projects below.
Planting new woodland across Cornwall
As part of the Forest for Cornwall programme. The new forest canopy of trees and hedgerows will draw down carbon from the atmosphere. The Forest for Cornwall will cover about 8,000 hectares in different parts of Cornwall. It will also increase public access to around 32 square miles of new open space. That's over 30 times the size of Cardinham Woods.
Increasing the amount of renewable energy generated in Cornwall
Since 2009 we have increased the amount of electricity we can generate from 90 to over 800 megawatts. That means around 40% of Cornwall's electricity now comes from renewable sources. Cornwall's new smart-grid wind turbine is generating enough energy to power over 1,400 Cornish homes.
Responding to the Climate Emergency through planning.
We are introducing new planning policies called the Climate Emergency Development Plan Document. This will create new planning rules that encourage better development, that uses less energy. Developing buildings that survive future climate change and that help protect the planet.
Improving the energy efficiency of homes across Cornwall
Initially we are focusing on our existing Council owned homes through our Cornwall Council Social Housing Retrofit Programme. We have secured Government ‘Getting Building’ and ‘Green Homes Grant Local Authority Delivery’ grants. We have installed solar panels to 600 homes to reduce the cost of their energy bills, and reduce their carbon impact. We have also been awarded £7.8 million government Sustainable Warmth grant funding to help make 400 other homes more energy efficient in partner with OVO Energy. We are lobbying government to help us do more.
Investing in geothermal heat and energy
We are exploring geothermal power opportunities at our United Downs geothermal power project site and at The Eden Project near St Austell. These two projects are the first geothermal power projects in the UK. We are aiming to produce low-carbon, renewable power and heat from the hot granite rocks beneath Cornwall by the end of 2022.
Investing in future farming and alternative fuel
We are piloting ground-breaking innovative biomethane technology, developed by Bennamann, to produce bio-fuel. We are capturing methane, on several of our Council tenant dairy farms, from covered slurry lagoons. The methane is processed into clean, sustainable bio-methane. The bio-gas or liquid fuel, can be used to power lorries and tractors, heat households and businesses, provide hot water and charge electric vehicles.
Exploring low-carbon lithium extraction
Cornwall's geothermal waters also have some of the highest concentrations of lithium ever discovered in geothermal brine. Our deep geothermal sites offer a vital new source of low-carbon lithium which will be key to achieving net-zero. Once processed the lithium-ion can be used in batteries for electric vehicles.
Cornwall Council has pledged to reduce its own carbon impact to zero. We are placing people and planet at the heart of how we work.
The Council set a clear overarching mission in 2021 for the next four years, of working with communities for a carbon neutral Cornwall, where everyone can start well, live well and age well. You will see this in everything that we do as a Council on becoming carbon neutral and on tackling the inequalities that exist in our society, so that everyone can have a good life here in Cornwall.
We are also making sure our key decisions don't impact in a bad way on the environment and people. We are using our Cornwall Development and decision-making tool to consider social, economic and environmental impacts.
As a council we have a roadmap setting out in which areas we need to reduce our emissions, year on year, to become carbon neutral by 2030.
The roadmap sets an ambitious but realistic target of reducing our direct carbon emissions by 70%.
We are targeting reducing our emissions in a range of areas including:
- our buildings and land,
- council-owned vehicles,
- business travel
- and street lighting.
We are also reducing our commuter travel to lessen our impact on Cornwall’s emissions as a whole. We are using technology to support flexible working and finding ways to lower our carbon impacts across all services.
Since we declared a climate emergency in January 2019 our emissions have fallen by 35%. The pandemic has forced us to change how we live and work and highlighted how we need to change our behaviours. It has helped us to cut our business and commuter mileage and our use of paper and printing.
By 2030 all our council-owned vehicles will run off electric or alternative low emission fuels, cutting our travel emissions by 90%. Our buildings' heating and powering emissions will be reduced by 75%. Our buildings will be more energy-efficient and use more renewable energy sources.
We are replacing streetlights with energy-saving LED bulbs, reducing energy demand by 50% and saving £1.2 million on our energy bills.
Our Forest for Cornwall programme will continue to capture the remaining carbon that is challenging to remove from our services. We are also increasing our renewable energy production with a target of 10 megawatts by 2030.
Cornwall Council completed a baseline carbon inventory for the financial year 2018-19.
The carbon inventory for Cornwall Council include all emissions relating to:
- Electricity and gas consumption within all Cornwall owned offices
- Electricity consumption by all Cornwall Council street lighting and road signs
- Water, waste and recycling in Cornwall Council owned offices and buildings
- Business travel by Cornwall Council employees.
Business travel includes:
- in pool cars
- in fleet vehicles
- in personal vehicles
- by rail, air and sea.
The Council's carbon emissions for 2018/19 was 12,859 tonnes of CO2e.
Our latest 2021/22 inventory shows we are ahead of our target to be carbon neutral by 2030. We emitted 10,058 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (tCO²e), representing a 24% drop in emissions since 2018.
This means we are on track to meeting our target for becoming a Carbon Neutral Council by 2030.
There are so many improvements that can decrease or offset carbon emissions. Cornwall Council only has direct control over a small number of the changes that need to happen. We can influence and support others to help Cornwall become carbon neutral by 2030 in a range of areas.
You can read about how we are working with other organisations and sectors below:
- We are encouraging the production of innovative renewable energy sources.
- We are supporting projects that are investigating deep geothermal and floating wind energy.
- There are also renewable energy incentive schemes to help investment in green technologies
- We will encourage individuals to cut down on energy usage at home and at work.
The national electricity grid needs upgrading for Cornwall to make more renewable energy. We are supporting improvements for Cornwall to make and store more renewable energy.
We have installed a wind turbine at Ventonteague, on the A30 near Carland Cross. The turbine is smart-grid connected. This is so we can manage the electricity we produce to match what we need.
The Cornwall Local Energy Market video below explains a pioneering trial in Cornwall.
- We will work with partners to increase electric vehicle charging points to over 200 by 2022.
- We will make public transport easier and more affordable for everyone. We will support the development of more integrated public transports timetables. Integrating buses, trains and ferries will help people to avoid car journeys.
- We will encourage individuals to cut down on car journeys. We will ask them to consider other more sustainable ways of getting about. Like car sharing, community cars schemes and walking or cycling.
- We will encourage people and businesses to cut down on flights. We will ask people to consider using public transport for holidays. We will promote virtual work meetings rather than travelling, where appropriate.
The way we farm and the crops we grow has an effect on the emissions we create. There are better ways available for us to manage the land, and help reduce and capture our emissions.
- We will work with the farming community to help reduce and draw down carbon from agriculture. Whilst also building resilience and increasing productivity.
- We will promote land use that absorbs more carbon. For example seaweed farming and wetland restoration.
- We will encourage people to create environments where pollinators - like bees - can thrive. Bees and other pollinators need wildflowers for food. When they visit flowers and trees for food they help to pollinate them.
- We will encourage individuals to look at the impact of their diet. We will ask them to consider reducing their meat consumption. We will work with food producers to help people buy and eat food that is in-season and grown in Cornwall or nearby.
The video below explains how a Bennamann trial in Cornwall is unlocking the power of methane to deliver a local clean energy revolution.
- We will encourage businesses to minimise their waste. We will ask them to be more efficient in how they use natural resources. We will promote a circular economy. For example through innovative projects like Tevi and Energy Independent Farming.
- We will help people to create less waste by supporting the development of a network of Repair Cafes.
- We will encourage individuals to cut down on food waste. For example through meal planning and freezing leftovers
- We will encourage individuals to embrace consuming and buying less. Consuming includes clothes and items like phones and appliances. We can reduce waste by repairing things rather than buying new ones.
While we are working to reduce the long term impacts of climate change - some change is inevitable. Flooding and coastal erosion will increase. Local communities will need to become more resilient to face these changes. We will need to plan to adapt and make the most of Cornwall's natural and human resources.
Things we are doing
We will be talking to people about issues that affect them now. We will also be asking about the priorities which lie ahead in an uncertain future.
We are looking at how and where managing land can help flood defenses and reduce coastal erosion.
We will work with the Environment Agency to make more funds available to manage flood risk.
We will contribute to neighbourhood plans and encourage others to do the same. We will encourage people to help shape how Cornwall approaches the future.
We will signpost people to information to help them understand what is happening. We will encourage people to talk to friends and families about climate change.
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