VALE OF GLAMORGAN: Vale climate change plan ‘Carry on what you’re doing, but in a slightly different way’
The action plan to tackle climate change in the Vale of Glamorgan has taken a step forward with a new board created to discuss the crisis.
Vale of Glamorgan council declared a climate emergency more than two years ago, pledging to take action to respond to the emergency by drastically cutting carbon emissions.
The huge task has been delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic, but is still making some progress, with council bosses this week lauding recent work like using LEDs in lampposts.
The new board of council officers will meet every two months to discuss progress and explore possible steps for the council’s climate crisis plan.
But the council’s cabinet made clear the Project Zero climate plan would not mean “stopping everything” like major developments, but adapting and working in “a slightly different way”.
Council leader Neil Moore said: “It’s about still carrying on what you’re doing and what you have to do, but in a slightly different way to meet the Project Zero criteria.”
He was speaking during a cabinet meeting on Monday, October 26, about the council’s programme to build new houses and schools across the Vale of Glamorgan, using sustainable construction practices for zero carbon buildings.
He added: “It hasn’t gone as far as we could have done because of Covid-19, but that is still progressing and work continues. It doesn’t mean we have to stop and change everything we have to do, because we still have our statutory responsibilities too.”
The Vale council declared a climate emergency in July 2019, around the same time as the Welsh Government and many other councils in the United Kingdom.
The declarations were responding to a landmark report in October 2018 from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which warned the world had until 2030 to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, and even half a degree beyond that would hugely increase the risks of drought, floods, extreme heatwaves and poverty for millions of people.
When the Vale council voted to declare a climate emergency, some councillors questioned what actual effect on policy it would have. But the new Project Zero plan means staff considering global warming in all areas the council works.
Cllr Lis Burnett, cabinet member for education and regeneration, said: “It’s very easy to put a tick box at the end of a report and say ‘have you considered the climate emergency’, but it’s a completely different thing to embed it in all our work.
“When we first brought the climate emergency motion, people said ‘so what, what’s it going to mean’. These sorts of motions help to change the policy of the council, which then help to change the ways we work.
“It doesn’t mean we’re going to stop building houses, because at the end of the day people still need somewhere to live. We still light our roads, but we light them with LED lights now, it’s those sorts of considerations.”
Project Zero aims to cut the council’s carbon emissions to net zero by 2030, and encourage others in the Vale of Glamorgan to reduce their emissions too. Some ideas suggested include getting council staff to work from home more often, and installing a heat network.
According to government data, the Vale emits about 1.1 million tonnes of carbon each year, with 57 per cent coming from industry and less than 1.5 per cent from the public sector. Over the last decade, total emissions in the Vale have reduced by about 9.7 per cent.
Cllr Ben Gray, cabinet member for social care and health, said the project would not prevent new buildings and developments in the Vale of Glamorgan, but was rather a factor to consider when making key decisions.
He said: “It doesn’t mean stopping everything. It’s about adapting how we do things. There are still going to be buildings built in the Vale of Glamorgan and there are still going to be areas where planning comes in, where there’s going to have to be a complicated decision process and an understanding of how to most effectively deal with those issues.
“But I think it’s about what lens we look through things at, and how we justify those decisions—whether they be our human resources strategy, how we do things digitally, what we do with our transport infrastructure, or indeed what happens with a refresh of the local development plan.”
Words: Alex Seabrook, Local Democracy Reporter
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