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WC making progress on carbon neutral - but you lot need to do better!

May 26, 2022 9:16 PM

Independent reports commissioned by Wiltshire Council have stated the local authority is in a strong position to meets its carbon neutral commitment by 2030, but the county as a whole needs to do more.

Independent consultant the Anthesis Group, specialists in providing support and expertise to organisations looking to be as sustainable as possible, provided the council with a detailed technical study of its, and the county's, climate ambitions,. This has provided the council with a clear picture of the way forward and the progress made so far.

In February 2019, at a meeting of full council, Wiltshire Council resolved to acknowledge a climate emergency and to seek to make the county of Wiltshire carbon neutral by 2030. The Wiltshire Climate Strategy was adopted in February this year to support the council to meet these commitments.

On its ambitions for the organisation itself to be carbon neutral by 2030, Anthesis found that Wiltshire Council is in a strong position to meet its commitment. The main focus of the report was on the council's direct emissions and it showed that the council has reduced its carbon footprint by 81% since 2014/15, and the projects currently in the pipeline should help get that to a 90% reduction by 2030. With further investment in offsetting, the council should reach its carbon neutral target by 2030.

Some of the wide variety of work carried out by the council to support its carbon neutral commitment so far, includes:

  • A new green energy contract for schools so they can access green energy at a competitive rate; 128 schools have signed up so far.
  • Thanks to sustained investment in solar panels, in 2020/21 the council generated 450,135 kWh renewable electricity on its own estate, a 39% increase on the previous financial year.
  • Two successful grant applications to Natural England totalling £10,000 to support the development of a Local Nature Recovery Strategy, plus evidence mapping for habitats across Wiltshire and Swindon.
  • Energy consumption from streetlights has been reduced by part-night lighting, dimming and a £12m investment in LEDs
  • So far 90 council homes have been retrofitted to improve their energy efficiency rating, with measures such as intelligent hot water cylinders, solar panels and high heat retaining storage heaters.
  • The council's first Electric Vehicle Charging Infrastructure Plan has been approved, and funding has been identified and approved for a number of electric vehicle charging points in the county.
  • The council is replacing several vehicles, with many of them anticipated to be electric.
  • An order for new electric and non-electric bikes for council staff has been placed with a local bike charity to help reduce car miles and carbon emissions.

Anthesis also focused on the county's overall ambition to be carbon neutral by 2030. The report clearly demonstrated that although Wiltshire Council will play a key role in helping the county to be carbon neutral, everyone from individuals, organisations, businesses and central government will need to play their part and step up to provide support. Real change can be achieved by 2030, and significant progress has already been made, but within the current national policy and funding constraints it's highly unlikely the county will be carbon neutral by then.

Anthesis' report showed that without any policy or funding constraints the county's carbon emissions could be reduced by 55% by 2030, but a number of things would need to happen within the next five years. This includes 72% of Wiltshire vehicles having ultra-low emissions (which was 3% in 2020), one in four Wiltshire homes being retrofitted to make them more energy efficient, 39% of domestic heating systems being electrified (9% in 2020), household recycling rates needing to increase to 59% (47% in 2019) and tree cover increasing by 21% on current levels.

Wiltshire Council's Climate Strategy can be found at https://www.wiltshire.gov.uk/green-economy-climate-change. Lots of information, including guidance on what individuals can do to make a positive difference, can be found at https://www.wiltshire.gov.uk/climate-change.