Council must up their game to achieve Net Zero, say Progressive Councillors

The Progressive group of councillors are pressing the Labour-led Council to up their game on achieving the net zero target by 2030 in response to a stark Exeter University report presented to the Council's Strategic Scrutiny Committee.

Progressive Group Councillors on the committee submitted a series of bold  recommendations in response to the report [1] to urge the Council’s Executive to take stronger action on climate change.

The Group's recommendations include insulating all Council houses to the highest standard [2]; a programme of mass insulation across the city, ensuring all new houses are built to net zero ‘passivhouse’ standards; a reduction in waste being incinerated, and a 70% recycling target by 2025. They also want to see an acceleration in the Council’s goals to reduce car dependency and increase walking and cycling instead of ‘exponential growth’ in electric vehicles, which won't tackle congestion. The Committee backed Green Councillor Tess Read's request for a committee to be set up to monitor progress on tackling climate change.

Councillor Tess Read said:

“Tackling the climate emergency can also help address the cost of living crisis. The cheapest energy bill is the one you don’t have to pay, which is why there is a strong focus on retrofitting homes in our recommendations. New and retrofitted homes must achieve a standard of insulation that means little or even no energy is required to keep them warm. 

“When households see that tackling carbon emissions also has positive economic and health benefits we are more likely to take people with us on the challenging journey towards Net Zero.” 

Independent councillor, Jemima Moore, who spoke at the committee about the need to improve efforts to support nature across the city, concluded:

“Back in 2019, under pressure from the Progressive Group, Exeter City Council agreed to a Net Zero 2030 target and also included commitments to social justice and support nature.

"Since then the alarm bells from scientists on the impacts of climate change have been ringing ever louder. Climate Change and development in  the city is having a negative impact on nature, both on land and its  waterways, and we need to focus on what we can do to support it."

Green Councillor and co-leader of the opposition Progressive Group, Diana Moore, said: 

“Three years on from declaring a climate emergency, little progress has been made in Exeter towards meeting the 2030 Net Zero target. The Exeter University report concludes that any reductions in emissions in the city are down to national changes to the electricity grid and not because of any local policy change. We must ensure that tackling climate change is more than a vague aspiration and that determined action is taken to ensure a reduction in the greenhouse gases that are causing climate change."

Notes

[1] Full set of recommendations by Green Party councillors to Exeter City Council Executive:

Governance

  • Set up a Committee on biodiversity and climate change to oversee to development and adoption of climate and biodiversity monitoring targets and their implementation across the council , and ensure its polices and strategies align and are designed to meet these targets, and respond to the work of the IPCC and climate change committee,  and this reports to the scrutiny committee and the public twice a year on progress. 
  • Continue work with DCC on citizens' assembly to help address the most challenging aspects of carbon reductions. 
  • An annual GHG monitoring report be published so the council and city partners can understand progress towards net zero.

Climate

  • Projections of carbon emissions that will arise from Liveable Exeter and also the new local plan be modelled in detail.
  • Refer all the transport targets to the Transport Working Group to consider the implications of ‘Continuing the exponential growth in electric vehicles ownership’  on air pollution and congestion and draw up policy options measures to incorporate into the Exeter Transport plan that accelerate the Council’s goals to reduce car dependency and increase walking and cycling.
  • Use the funds previously agreed by Council to develop a business case for a retrofit company to work across the Council, Housing associations, and privately owned property, and develop partnerships to improve the supply chain.
  • To extend the work begun on council house retrofit to achieve B EPC all properties.
  • To update the heat network studies focus on heat for water only and ensure houses are built to passivhouse standards (i.e. not requiring external heat sources). Adopt a commitment to reducing incineration - ie fossil fuels and a conversion to renewal heat generation, and the prioritisation of existing homes and bis prioritised - new ones shouldn’t need it.
  • That the council adopt a 70% recycling target rate by 2025.
  • That the relevant waterways are included in the scope of the report and the city’s net zero and biodiversity responsibilities.   The city council is the port authority for the Exeter Ship Canal, and the Exe from the Mill on the Exe to one mile out to sea at Exmouth.
  • The report set out for each sector what ' Scope' of emissions are included in the calculations.

Biodiversity

  • That  specific measures are progressed  to create biodiversity enhancement plan for the city - drawing on the Devon Local Recovery Partnership, that can inform the Local Plan and future investment in nature in Exeter

[2] the Council is planning to retrofit council houses to SAP2030 standards, not to the Passive House standard as first stated: Agenda for Executive on Monday 28th February 2022, 5.30 pm - Exeter City Council

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