Developing a carbon action plan
- The aim is to develop a portfolio of realistic actions based on scientific evidence, as well as reflecting local political, economic and social priorities. Wherever possible, actions will be drawn from examples of best practice both nationally and internationally. The Council will endeavour to address both mitigation actions (which will address the causes of climate change) and adaptation actions (which will address the impact of climate change). Even with mitigating actions in place the effects of climate change will continue due to emissions already released in previous decades and although adaptation is more difficult to quantify it is essential that the borough is prepared for the future.
- Audits on emissions have shown significant gaps in data collection, and in order to monitor effective progress towards these goals, significant internal reviews are required on data collection and management and the sharing of monitoring responsibilities across directorates and services.
- Service deliverers must also be engaged in the development of any carbon reduction actions, in order to utilise the total expertise available to the Council to develop meaningful actions that can be implemented. For this reason this climate report is a working document which details planned actions for 2020/21. However the working group is also considering potential future actions which require more extensive cross-service review and research before implementation.
- Curbing emissions will require significant ambition and commitment. In line with the principle of sustainable development, many of the planned and potential actions will have significant social and/or economic co-benefits or lead to long-term financial savings for the Council. However some will necessitate financial investment and may be reliant on investment from national government. To this end the Council is committed to working with national government to develop national policy frameworks and lobby for additional investment. This will be important if the Council and the borough as a whole are able to curb emissions and thus contribute to the national carbon target.#
- In developing the carbon action plan, it is proposed that actions are identified under seven themes. These are: Energy, Housing, Transport, Waste, Built and Natural Environment, Influence and Engagement. These are considered in further detail below.
- This refers to the energy that is used across all Council operations and concerns where energy comes from (i.e. the use of non-renewables vs renewables), how efficiently energy is used (such as the energy efficiency of physical capital) and personal behaviours. Potential actions could include investing into energy efficiency improvements of operational buildings and using (and potentially generating) renewable energy, and targeting energy usage behaviours. Such measures will typically necessitate some financial investment however will generally lead to medium and long term cost savings for the Council as well as stimulation of sustainability and renewable energy markets, and job creation within these.
- The Council has already been improving efficiency of its energy usage, most recently improving the energy efficiency of street lighting, saving an approximate £430,000 per annum and achieving a 63% per annum reduction of emissions here since 2012. In order to further improve energy efficiency, an assessment of the Council’s operational buildings will be required in order to determine potential efficiency upgrades for each building (this will account for cost of measures, carbon savings and long-term financial savings). Alongside improving material efficiency, it is recommended that energy-use behaviours of all staff are targeted through awareness training.
- In order to reduce emissions to a meaningful extent, the Council will consider what steps it can take to decarbonise its energy source. Two options exist here: the first is to switch to a renewable energy provider; the second option would be to explore the potential for investment into renewable energy generation. This latter option would allow the Council to reduce its emissions, while saving energy costs to all operations (approximately £5 million per year) and providing additional revenue through excess energy exported to the national grid. Both options would require significant investment and further exploration of funding and investment opportunities. In addition the Council will continue to support the development of the new Templeborough heat network.
- As with the above, this considers the sourcing of energy and the efficiency of its use, for both social and private housing (i.e. carbon that is emitted as a consequence of energy use within the home). Potential actions include measures to upgrade the efficiency of new and existing housing, and utilising sustainable energy solutions. Improving energy efficiency in housing generates social co-benefits in reduction of both energy bills and vulnerability to fuel poverty, as well as economic development of sustainable housing markets, and increased employment associated with these.
- In order to monitor social housing decarbonisation progress towards the 2030 net zero goal, all available data on social housing must be regularly collected and held by the Council. Data for borough-wide domestic emissions is collected by national government.
- In order to stay within carbon budgets, new social housing should be built to the best possible energy efficiency standards. Passivehaus (regarded as one of the most energy efficient building methods and standards) is one possible choice for this, however further review is required to determine the best achievable standard.
- At this time local authorities are able to set energy efficiency requirements of new developments higher than national building regulations require (currently EPC E) and it is suggested that the Council should pursue the option of requiring private developers to adopt high energy efficiency standards (e.g. EPC of A or B) .
- Whilst it is more financially viable to build energy efficiency into new housing, according to ONS projections in 2041 83% of housing will have been built before 2016 which will require retrofitting to cut domestic emissions in line with national net zero goals. The Council would be keen to work with national government to determine the feasibility of retrofitting Rotherham’s housing stock, including a thorough assessment of housing standards and to ascertain the material and financial requirements of retrofitting that would be necessary.
- This refers to the means by which people and materials move across the borough. The focus and scope of this theme is centred on vehicles involved with RMBC’s fleet and private vehicles used for work (“grey fleet”) as well as a potential way to decarbonise wider transport use and reduce unnecessary car travel. Actions to curb transport emissions include electric vehicle (EV) conversion of the Council’s own fleet, and measures to decarbonise wider public and private transport usage, both independently as a local authority and by working with Sheffield City Region (SCR).
- Rotherham Council has already begun introducing measures conducive to decarbonising transport across the borough. Active transport has been facilitated by the development of cycling infrastructure, and schemes that provide training and bike loans. Public transport improvements have been pursued through participation in the South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive, and SCR, where public transport is a key economic and environmental priority.
- The Council has already begun building its Electric Vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure; using this infrastructure to support EV fleet conversion will be essential to curbing internal transport emissions in line with 2030 net zero goals. Consensus suggests that the cost gap between EV and combustion vehicles will continue to close, allowing a gradual conversion to take advantage of falling purchase costs, as well as the lower running costs of EVs. If charged from the national grid, EV conversion is estimated to cut a vehicle’s emissions by approximately 43%.
- “Grey fleet” emissions should also be addressed to contribute to reducing the Council’s overall transport emissions. This would involve a review of the spatial coordination of staff in order to reduce unnecessary travel during regular working patterns, as well as amending the Council’s business mileage reimbursement policy with the expectation that staff prioritise the use of public transport for work-related travel (unless prevented by reasonable circumstances). Based on the most recent internal data available, significant financial savings and emission reductions could be achieved for the Council. The Council is already committed to reviewing its fleet and producing plans for possible conversions to electric vehicles. This work should be completed by early 2021 and will be reported back to members as part of the annual climate report.
- The Council also has the capacity to reduce borough-wide transport emissions by acting as an enabler in several key areas:
- Expanding promotion of active travel through cycling infrastructure, training, and bike provision (Transport For Life recommends an investment of £12,000,000 per annum into active travel, with a potential saving of 13,000 tonnes of CO2 per annum and a health benefit of up to £5,000,000 (Dept. of Transport figures).
- Work with transport partnerships to improve public transport services, encouraging a shift from private transport use
- Explore community transport options in areas where public transport services are unlikely to be profitable for private operators
- Facilitate borough-wide switch to EVs and Ultra Low Emission Vehicles (ULEVs) through continuing to expand charging infrastructure
- Transport is also a key economic and environmental priority for SCR, and is included in the Combined Authority’s extended powers and responsibilities as part of its Devolution Deal. RMBC can therefore support transport systems and infrastructure by providing input into and collaborating with the development and implementation of a sustainable transport strategy across the region. This will be a particularly important endeavour in Rotherham’s context, where a significant proportion of borough-wide emissions are from journeys through M1 or M18 motorways, which may have little to do with the borough’s residents. RMBC officers are working with the SCR and their Active Travel Commissioner and Director, in working to influence the SCR Active Travel Implementation Plan to ensure this maximises the opportunity for evidence-led investment in low/zero carbon transport in the borough.
- Waste is an area where the Council has already done significant work, both in terms of recent improvements to recycling services across the borough and alongside Barnsley and Doncaster, to reduce the emissions associated with processing waste through the BDR Waste PFI Partnership. This theme therefore represents commitments to continue to collaborate with this partnership to minimise emissions associated with the processing of waste.
- Working across the South Yorkshire authorities through the South Yorkshire Waste Strategy, RMBC can explore extending sustainable waste processing (e.g. reuse and recycling/upcycling and organic waste processing) and reducing waste generally (and specifically non-recyclable waste) through work with industry, awareness-raising and community engagement. The Council will continue to review its approach to recycling and waste collections to mitigate the impact of waste on the environment. Education regarding waste will be particularly important as processing of waste is responsible for 4% of all of the UK’s emissions. Given that the majority of UK-wide emissions are indirect emissions associated with the consumption of goods, emission savings here have significant potential. The Council is also exploring opportunities to expand its contractual arrangements with schools to enable schools to access recycling collections that mirror those of Rotherham households.
Built and natural environment
- This refers to how the Council utilises the carbon capture potential of green infrastructure (e.g. green spaces, trees, woodlands) and manages/coordinates developments and planning to reduce emissions associated with both the development/construction process, and the use of urban space after completion. Potential actions include reviews of planning policies and increasing the capacity of Trees and Green Spaces services.
- RMBC’s annual tree removals are currently higher than planting, not taking into account that new smaller trees are unable to capture as much carbon as older trees. It is also expected that over the next decade “Ash Dieback” disease will kill many thousands of trees across woodlands, privately owned and Council lands. In order to maintain its green infrastructure, RMBC must allocate an annual planting budget at least sufficient to capture the equivalent carbon to trees lost. It is advisable to support this by conducting an i-Tree survey to establish current carbon capture levels across the borough and enable effective monitoring of these. Strategic tree planting and further expansion of green infrastructure will also be essential to borough-wide climate emergency adaptation measures, for example by providing natural drainage to protect against flooding.
- The Council can also reduce emissions associated with the urban environment through planning policy and services. Rotherham’s Local Plan already makes provision for climate change and related issues, both in the protection of green infrastructure and in its strategic priorities and land use planning. It may be advisable to review the framework for site allocation at the next available opportunity in order to ensure continued emphasis on carbon reduction. This could be further supported with a Supplementary Planning Document on low carbon developments and planning, to clarify climate-based planning priorities to inform developers’ planning applications.
- Consideration should be given to introducing specific local planning policies to reduce carbon associated with the urban environment at the earliest opportunity. Two examples proposed so far include:
- The use of Section 106 agreements to require developers to pay into a carbon reduction fund. The amount to be paid would be calculated based on the number of dwellings or m2 of commercial floor space, with additional amounts based on carbon lost from the removal of green infrastructure (i.e. trees);
- Requiring developers to include emission estimates in their planning applications and monitoring emissions during development;
- The Woodland Trust has been commissioned to create the ‘Northern Forest’ which would see 50 million trees planted across Northern England. The land for this has not been identified yet and meetings are taking place with land owners to start discussions about what land is available and appropriate for this type of planting in different towns and cities across the north. The Council is working with the Woodland Trust to explore options for Rotherham.
This will consider actions through which the Council can secure commitments and pledges from other organisations to reduce carbon. This may include other public sector organisations, private partners, or through lobbying central government to shape the national legislative context.
Rotherham Together Partnership
As part of its response to the climate emergency, the Council has begun communicating its priorities and potential avenues of action to other organisations through the Rotherham Together Partnership. In order to drive progress towards the 2040 borough-wide net zero target, RMBC should consolidate and expand its partnerships around environmental issues. By engaging with partners in public, private and voluntary sectors, as well as expert groups the Council can:
- Collaborate on specific carbon reduction projects
- Share knowledge and best practice
- Support sustainable development and the decarbonisation of Rotherham’s economy
- Secure pledges and commitments from organisations across the borough towards net zero emission goals
Influencing National Government
- Working with partners, other local authorities and SCR, RMBC should also establish key lobbying lines in order to influence government. These will include, but are not limited to:
- Call on government to create the national legislative and policy context in which local authorities, businesses and citizens are best able to act on climate change
- Investment for essential interventions as described above (e.g. housing, transport infrastructure)
- Related to the above, join other authorities in asking government to give local authorities a statutory duty in low carbon energy and the associated introduction of a Sustainable Energy Investment Fund
- Call on government to set net zero standards across all UK developments
- Call on government to create the fiscal and financial conditions to stimulate decarbonisation (e.g. tax systems that favour low carbon solutions, an effective financial regime to support innovation, etc.)
- Request direct government support for a thorough assessment of the extent and ways that climate change is likely to impact Rotherham, and then for direct support in implementing appropriate adaptation measures
- The Council will, through its social value policy, commit to securing additional social value from its procurement and commissioning processes. This includes a commitment to work with suppliers and providers to support measures designed to improve outcomes for Rotherham residents and communities as well as measures around greater environmental sustainability, including accessible green public spaces.
- Through engagement, the Council will aim to secure the active participation of residents in the design and implementation of strategies to reduce boroughwide emissions and raise awareness of climate change.
- To stimulate a borough-wide response to the climate emergency, members and officers have begun to develop a community engagement strategy to implement alongside agreed actions. This strategy will encourage active participation of residents in borough-wide carbon reduction, by relating emission saving to its various co-benefits including cost saving. Engagement of young people will be central to this, as young voices have been central to international environmental movements so far, and it is the youngest generations who will inherit the future, which will inevitably be shaped by the success of our response to the climate emergency.
- An internal engagement strategy will also be developed and implemented. This is to encourage Council staff and service providers to be actively involved in identifying areas of high energy consumption and/or emission output that can be acted on. Additionally, service providers and relevant expertise within the Council are to be further involved in the further development and implementation of themed based actions. In addition, once agreed, this climate report will be turned into a strategy document which can be shared with the partners and the public.