Somerset County Council has taken significant steps in reducing its carbon output since declaring a climate emergency three years ago this month.
The Council was recently recognised by Climate Emergency UK as the top county council in the UK when it comes to taking a lead on climate change, and is taking action to ensure Somerset continues to set a strong example in the years ahead.
At its Full Council Meeting in February 2019, the Council pledged to work with partners across the county to identify ways to make Somerset carbon neutral by 2030.
In the months that followed, Somerset County Council, Mendip District Council, Sedgemoor District Council, South Somerset District Council, and Somerset West & Taunton Council, worked in partnership to develop the Somerset Climate Emergency Strategy which was adopted by all five Somerset councils in November 2020.
The strategy sets out ambitious targets for nine key sectors including energy, transport, buildings, business and supply chains, the natural environment, farming, water, waste, and communications.
Alongside the joint work being carried out with the District Councils as part of the Climate Emergency Strategy, Somerset County Council has made significant investment to combat the impacts of climate change.
Cllr David Hall, Somerset County Council Cabinet Member for Climate Change, said: “Somerset County Council’s declaration of a Climate Emergency was not an empty gesture, it was a commitment to changing our culture and we are making real progress in doing so.
“Tackling the climate emergency is now at the forefront of our decision making at Somerset County Council and we are determined to build on the good work done so far across Somerset.”
Initiatives include the £1.5m Climate Emergency Community Fund, which has been used to help develop community projects which share the council’s vision of working towards a climate resilient Somerset. So far 43 projects have been funded, ranging from installing Solar PV panels on community buildings to supporting community vegetable growing projects.
Somerset County Council has also been busy working to ‘decarbonise’ a number of buildings owned by the council including a number of libraries, Glastonbury Hub, and County Hall in Taunton. Early estimates indicate that the delivery of the various schemes could reduce the Council’s non-schools estate carbon output by around 27% – around 400 tonnes of carbon per annum. All the remaining projects aside from County Hall are due to be complete by March 2022.
The Council is also currently building its first ‘Passivhaus’ standard primary school at Comeytrowe in Taunton, which will be one of the very few across the Southwest once built. The 420-pupil school, built to high energy efficiency and air tightness standards, aims to be ‘fossil fuel’ free in its daily operation, saving significant annual running costs for the school.
Somerset County Council’s commitment to replacing high-energy street lighting continues apace. More than 56% of the Council’s street lighting has now switched to LED lighting, resulting in a reduction of 6,200 tonnes of carbon dioxide during that time.
There has also been investment in Carbon Literacy Training for councillors and council officers, as well as city, town, and parish councils in Somerset and the Somerset Youth Parliament. Significant work has gone in to developing an Electric Vehicle Strategy, alongside ambitious plans to improve public transport and investment in more cycling and walking routes.
The Council has created a series of short films to highlight how communities are already doing amazing things to cut the carbon and hopefully inspire others to follow suit.
The projects showcased in the short films range from the green-minded village of Wedmore to modern thinking from the 850-year-old Wells Cathedral; from community energy in Avalon to growing local veg in Porlock, from retrofitting homes in Bruton to e-scooters in Taunton and the success of the Recycle More programme. You can view the videos on the Climate Resilient Somerset – Somerset County Council Facebook page.
To keep up to date with latest information about tackling the climate emergency in Somerset, visit Climate Emergency website.