Shropshire Council sets out its climate strategy as COP25 looks like becoming COPOUT 25

Shropshire Council sets out its climate strategy as COP25 looks like becoming COPOUT 25

In May, Shropshire Council declared a climate emergency, though the council’s leader refused to commit to any urgency. Cabinet members, councillors and council staff have shown a greater commitment to tackling the biggest issue of our age and the biggest issue for generations to come. The newly published route map to a Zero Carbon Shropshire only really deals with a Zero Carbon Council (Agenda 6). And it says an ambition of net zero council by 2030 may not be met. The Shropshire Climate Action Partnership agreed in May has still not been set up.

After six months, I would have expected more.

Meanwhile, in the heart of the Iberian Peninsula, the world’s annual climate summit COP25 looks like it is going nowhere. (Update: It did prove to be COPOUT25.)

We must convert the hot air talked about acting on climate change into action on reducing emissions.

We are stewards of Shropshire. Stewards of our Earth. We must do more. And do it faster.

The report makes clear the importance the scale of the global threat and the threat to Shropshire:

“The health of our natural environment underpins the delivery of a wide range of services and long-term natural capital benefits for people and places in Shropshire, such as flood protection, agricultural food production, recreation and water and air quality. Land management practices can have a significant direct impact on carbon performance in Shropshire. For example, significant losses of soil carbon occur with conversion of pasture to arable land, losses of soil from farmland into rivers, or, perhaps most significantly, the draining of wetlands.”

But there is nothing about how to preserve and foster carbon storage in the landscape in the document.

Across the county, we must reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 7.7% a year, 135,000 tonnes, to reach carbon neutrality by 2030. The counties’ residents have been cutting their own emissions but I wonder whether the recent growth of SUV use has affected this.

We don’t currently have a time series by sector for our county. Below is the now dated data for 2015.

Energy was the biggest source of emissions at 58%. Transport accounted for 37% of emissions. Agriculture just 5%.

Shropshire Council’s emissions have fallen from around 31,000 tonnes in 2012 to around 23,000 tonnes in 2017 (26%) – a fall of 4.3% a year. Officers say more work is needed to establish an accurate current figure. The projection is that the council will achieve net zero by 2030 – that’s a cut of 7.6% a year. This data does not include council housing which is independently managed or schools.

Can this be achieved? Despite the climate emergency declared in May, the council still does not have a costed action plan. No date is given for publishing that. Although it is aiming for net zero by 2030, “this is not a legally binding target and may be subject to change”. The council is flat broke but significant investment will be required if the council is to achieve net zero 2030. It is not clear where the money will come from. It is more difficult to justify borrowing since the Treasury hiked lending rates to councils by 1%. Going to the commercial sector will require a robust financial case. But the climate emergency is not about finances, it’s about ambition.

Shropshire Council is a minor player in Shropshire accounting for around 1.3% of Shropshire’s total carbon footprint. It says it “will use its experience to work with others and provide community leadership to help reduce Shropshire’s overall carbon footprint.” But the council says, “it is on a shared journey and will need to work with others.”

“Much more work and evidence is needed before a target date can be identified for net zero GHG emissions for the county as a whole.”

That is a Peter Nutting copout. He fears that going to net zero before 2050 will damage the economy. He doesn’t recognise that leading in carbon reduction will strengthen our economy. However, the council paper takes a more positive approach, saying the transition to a green economy, zero carbon and a circular economy could provide significant growth opportunities.

“There is no evidence that the significant investment required to achieve net zero GHG emissions will have a detriment impact on the economy.”

The council will work with schools to ensure that the climate emergency is integrated into the curriculum. That will fulfil a Green Party manifesto commitment and I am surprised that it was not in all the party manifestos.

There is a promise to set up a Shropshire Climate Action Partnership. This was agreed by the council in May but it seems that the council has taken zero action since. That typifies the council’s approach. Much talk about acting but no sense of emergency.

However, this paper is a start. For years the council has only thought about money and not about the future. But it must go much further. Although the paper talks about rolling out EV charging points it does not mention the North West Relief Road or the cabinet’s ambition to extend the M54 to Shrewsbury. It ignores the planning system, where the loss of trees is routine. Carbon reduction has been barely mentioned in discussion on the new local plan which is due to be published in draft shortly. We need tough planning policies to ensure that all new developments are assessed for their carbon impact.

The council has produced a series of economy policies for the market towns. Publication has been delayed but the draft policy for Ludlow ignores the climate and carbon emissions.

The council has made a start but it must work faster and harder. It must put the emergency into its declaration of climate emergency.

2 thoughts on “Shropshire Council sets out its climate strategy as COP25 looks like becoming COPOUT 25

  1. Are there any solar powered trains ? If not their should be cos they are developing solar powered cars. Ways of getting transport off the roads is required. (or electric, solar powered cars vans etc should be pushed. Sell helicopters as the way that tourists can come in and hire electric cars at the heliport. Ideas can stimulate discussion and start action off.

  2. Hi Andy

    I hope that you can support the recommendation tomorrow that the council report be adopted subject to adding the following recommendation:

    ‘That the Council agrees to do everything within the Councils power to make Shropshire carbon neutral by 2030, and will instruct officers to develop an action plan based on a target of 2030 for net zero Shropshire and for this action plan to be presented for adoption by the Council before the first anniversary of declaration of the emergency (i.e. by 16 May 2020). It is recognised that in the light of uncertainties this may need to be set out as an ‘aspirational’ target, subject to annual review.’

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