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Agenda item

Carbon Reduction Action Plan

To consider the progress achieved in year two of the Council’s Carbon Reduction Action Plan, and the recommended year three action plan. 


27.1          Attention was drawn to the report of the Head of Finance and Asset Management, circulated at Pages No. 79-103, which outlined the progress made during the second year of the Council’s Carbon Reduction Action Plan and the recommended year three action plan.  Members were asked to consider the report.

27.2          The Head of Finance and Asset Management advised that this was the second annual report on the Council’s carbon reduction journey towards the 2030 target.  Appendix A to the report provided the detail of the progress made over the last 12 months and gave an update on the baseline emissions and activity for year two.  In terms of highlights, a lot of work had been done around funding and the Council had given generously to support the ambitions with a £100,000 delivery fund from its reserves as well as a contribution of £447,200 to support delivery of the solar canopy in the car park and ongoing funding to support the new Carbon Reduction Programme Officer post; the Officer had been in post since February and was delivering a number of actions.  Members were informed that construction of the solar canopy was complete and sign-off was awaited from the Distribution Network Operators (DNO).  As well as the achievements, there had been a lot of frustration with significant resource dedicated to an ultimately unsuccessful attempt to secure external funding for the replacement of the Council’s heating system.  Having secured funding in year one, the tender for its delivery in year two had seen a significant increase in cost of installation which resulted in funding being withdrawn.  The team had then taken the opportunity to bid for further external funding which had required a lot of work within a short space of time and, although the bid was technically sound and had passed the assessment criteria, the fund had run out of money so could not make an award to the Council.  This project remained a key target and it was hoped that a further round of Public Sector Decarbonisation Funding (PSDS) funding would be announced in due course so an early bid could be made using all of the information gathered in previous rounds. 

27.3          In terms of the annual emissions report, there was a significant reduction of 538 tonnes (33.5%) against the 2019 baseline; however, it was important to remember the impact of COVID on working practices and energy demand during the timeframe and that the quality of data supplied by outside bodies was not as expected and needed to be checked for accuracy.  There was effectively a new baseline for 2021 with just over 1,000 tonnes of carbon to be eliminated or offset over the next eight years.  The action plan for the next 12 months included a number of activities such as branding, communication and training for Officers and Members as well as rollout of electric vehicle charging points, provision of a fully electric vehicle fleet and decarbonisation of the domestic property portfolio.  The action plan also started to consider the strategies that would be required to deal with the Ubico fleet which represented 44% of the remaining emissions – this was a significant challenge and would take considerable commitment and resources to resolve by 2030.  It was noted that the year three action plan would be reviewed if there was a successful bid for funding to replace the heating system at the Council Offices given the level of resources that would be required to deliver the project.

27.4          A Member expressed the view that, whilst it was clear Officers were doing a fantastic job, it was necessary to look at the whole carbon footprint rather than just the end result – this was something he had raised before.  For example, in terms of the vehicle fleet, if this was replaced with electric it would not reduce the overall carbon footprint if the carbon cost of producing those vehicles was taken into account.  The Head of Finance and Asset Management provided assurance that, although it was difficult to calculate, it was very much part of the plan to include this information in reports going forward.  The Carbon Reduction Programme Officer advised that Officers would be looking at all of the materials which had gone into the solar canopy build in order to understand its carbon footprint and how long it would take to pay back.  It was a complex area and training, which would be rolled out to in due course, would help Members to have those sort of discussions when decisions were being made.  The Member indicated that, with regard to the vehicle fleet, technology was continually evolving e.g. hydrogen, biofuel etc. but the carbon footprint to produce those vehicles was getting bigger so, in his view, it may be more beneficial to retain the existing fleet for a longer period as it could be an easier decision to take in a few years when technology would have moved on even further.

27.5          Another Member noted that the feed-in tariff for solar panels was no longer as good as it had once been and he asked if consideration had been given to energy storage.  The Head of Finance and Asset Management advised that, in terms of the solar canopy, the option of using batteries to store excess energy produced had been investigated but was not financially viable and it was found it would be better to export it to the Leisure Centre where there was a demand.  He confirmed that the expectation was that the Council and the Leisure Centre would use all of the energy produced by the solar canopy. 

27.6          A Member drew attention to Page No. 103, Action 18 in relation to maintaining and improving carbon reporting.  She felt that the Council had done a brilliant job of reducing its carbon footprint but she raised concern there was no real sense of how much had actually been achieved in terms of the reduction over the 10 year period to 2030.  She was pleased a metric was being developed in the next year and she asked if Members would have any input into what that would look like.  The Head of Finance and Asset Management explained that the 2019 baseline established that the Council’s carbon output was 1,600 tonnes and that had been reduced to just over 1,000 tonnes so although, it had come a long way, there was still much to be done to offset that.  Officers had tried to include high-level detail within the report as the calculations were significant and involved a lot of spreadsheets; however, he was happy to share these if Members wished.  In terms of improvement, it was intended to ensure that information was captured on a regular basis and that reporting and targets were consistent across Gloucestershire as there was currently no definitive format.  The Member explained she was looking for less, rather than more, detail and favoured high-level simplicity.  In response, the Head of Finance and Asset Management undertook to ensure more summary charts were included going forward.  The Member went on to draw attention to Action 20 which was to support tree planting, tree protection and bio-diversity and indicated that, when the tree planting proposal had been put to the Climate Change and Flood Risk Management Group, she had understood that a tree planting strategy was being developed for 2023 so she asked what had happened to that.  The Head of Finance and Asset Management explained that the Council had a Tree Management Strategy for its existing trees which included replacement of trees and that was in place currently.  There was no plan for a tree planting strategy to come forward but the Borough Council would support the County Council with its ambitions and, where new trees could be accommodated, that was something Officers would look to do.  The Member indicated that a tree planting strategy had been mentioned and she asked what the Borough Council’s ambitions were in that regard.   The Head of Finance and Asset Management undertook to discuss this with the Asset Manager following the meeting.

27.7          It was

RESOLVED          That the progress achieved in year two of the Council’s Carbon Reduction Action Plan, and the recommended year three action plan, be NOTED.

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