Agenda item

Climate and Ecological Emergency Action Plan


MG presented the report, noting the proposed strategy is currently in draft form ahead of being taken to cabinet and to work on it further with Communications to ensure the layout is as effective as possible.  MG commented on the timeliness of the report alongside COP26 and that it looks at the council’s pledge on achieving net zero as well as work with the community on achieving its targets by 2050.  MG advised that the report looks at high-level actions rather than noting all details, with the main focus being on the council’s own pledge and work that will impact the community.


MG outlined the challenge in costing the plan given that the plans are to be delivered by 2030-2050.  MG advised that the government’s direction on vehicles and air source heat pumps is yet to be defined, and there are supply chain issues in delivering what is currently required.  Costings are therefore provided as an estimate with more details to be set out on immediate actions and what will follow.  MG stated that the focus is on meeting the necessary challenges and ensuring that actions are taken in the right order and that bids are made on all possible opportunities.


Cllr Wyatt-Lowe noted the list of consultees within the report and asked if this should be widened out, commenting that she would expect the scope to broaden throughout the process, particularly to bring in participation from the general public.  Cllr Wyatt-Lowe noted the success of the recent carbon literacy training and that she would like to see this being offered to residents to help increase engagement.  MG agreed, confirming that engagement will broaden as the strategy develops and that the public will be vital in shaping the strategy going forward.  MP added that they have focused on reaching out to experts to help guide the strategy, such as with the Energy Saving Trust.  MP also noted that the Dacorum Climate Action Network was recently set up with 30 organisations and over 130 residents already signed up and they will be looking to expand this further.  MP agreed on the need for training and that they will be looking to train Members of the public to enable them to carry out training sessions.  MG added that including parish and town councils will be imperative in ensuring local engagement with initiatives. 


Cllr Birnie commented on the academic work currently being done in this area, such as the work at Sheffield University on heat pumps and housing insulation, and that he would hope to see these references included within the report.


Cllr England remarked that he found the report lacking in measurable activity and that, given the report was delayed in July due to Covid and the decision to wait until nearer to COP26 when government guidance was likely to be updated, he was surprised there was nothing in the report pertaining to this.  Cllr England commented that while he understood the difficulty in including figures in the strategy, he felt the plan needs to clearly demonstrate stages of delivery to demonstrate actions to residents.  Cllr England added that residents need to be aware of the costs associated with insulation and to mitigate this by informing them of the cost saving benefits.


In response to Cllr England’s comments, MG stated that they have set out the plan to a degree of detail to demonstrate their approach on taking high-level actions to meet their 2030 targets and that he felt it would be improper to contain numbers for a budget that is yet to be set.  MG noted on the insulation of council housing that the number of properties that falls below the standard cannot be solved by the council alone and that government and homeowner investment will be critical.  MG added that there is a reasonable understanding that a large level of funding will be required but the current focus of the plan is to be clear on what they are looking to deliver. 


Cllr Birnie commented that they should be able to set out the costs for insulation.  MG confirmed that the report states that insulation and new heating systems for council housing will cost £150-175m over the period.  Cllr Birnie suggested that residents should be informed how much it will cost on average for each council house to be reinsulated effectively and that Members need to understand the average cost per unit.  MG responded that this would be difficult to clarify given the difference in types and ages of council properties. 


Cllr England commented on the opportunity posed by COP26 and that he felt the report needs to speak to residents more on the coming years with expected costs for the next financial year.  Cllr England added that he felt the target for fabric first should be 100% rather than 90% and that he was uncomfortable with the referencing to offsetting, stating that it needs to be clear that offsetting is a last resort to help increase progress.  MG explained that offsetting is being used to mitigate the issue that some buildings will be impossible to make net zero and instead we will be looking at investment in renewables. 


Cllr Silwal requested that the report be updated to reference COP26.  MG explained that the report was completed in advance of COP26 and that key government documents were not released in time to be included. 


Cllr Harden acknowledged the difficulties in creating a climate report for a local council when compared to the large impact of countries, but that he was concerned about the message that it will take 10-20 years to deal with the climate emergency.  Cllr Harden requested a year-on-year plan over the next 10 years on what the council intends to do and to also make clear how it will impact the council’s capital schemes.  MG advised that they would take an approach that looks at the value of carbon reduction as well as items in the general fund.  MP added that the intention is that the strategy is a public-facing document and that the action plan will act as a live document.  MP stated that she felt it more sensible to have the action plan separate and that more detail will be provided once there is more information on funding and direction from the government.  MG added that the plan would not crowd out other capital spending already agreed but that Members would need to be aware that spending on this in the future would mean less capital elsewhere. NH commented that the expectation is that legislation will be set out that certain buildings need to meet particular criteria and that they are therefore looking to be ahead of this and make it part of the capital programme. 


Cllr Taylor recommended that they be more ambitious in their targets regarding electric vehicles and that a vision needs to be set out regarding making charging points available, particularly to those without access to off-street parking, and to combine this with the business strategy.  MP agreed that electric vehicles is an issue to be tackled but they are currently constrained by a lack of guidance from government for local authorities and that County is also yet to finalise its strategy.  MP noted that Field Dynamics have suggested that 700 charge points are required in Dacorum to meet the target of 30k electric vehicles by 2030.  MP advised that they are able to put charge points on council owned land and they are applying for ORCS funding.  MP added that they are also working with BP Chargemaster on where charge points can be located but this has been delayed due to all local authorities doing the same.  Cllr Birnie commented that, as a public-facing document, the strategy should be clear on the council’s aims regarding charging points but that they are currently constrained by Hertfordshire County Council and the government. 


Cllr Timmis stated that she felt the report provided more detail on council action and less on public involvement.  Cllr Timmis noted her own involvement in a local climate change awareness group and that these groups are getting very little support from Dacorum.  Cllr Timmis then looked to the information on emissions on page 49 of the report, noting that flight emissions should also be noted.  In response to Cllr Timmis’ comments, MP stated that air emissions are not included by the government due to flights being shared between countries.  On Dacorum Climate Action Network, MP advised that this was only launched last month and that they are looking to expand this so as to support other groups.


Cllr Stevens commented on the late submission of the report and asked that reports be made available to allow Members enough time to prepare ahead of meetings.  Cllr Birnie agreed and asked that such long reports be made available before the statutory 2 week notice period.


Cllr Stevens noted the strapline of ‘discover, define and deliver’, commenting that they are through the discovery stage, they are defining the scope of the problem and they are yet to look at how it can be delivered.  Cllr Stevens suggested a separate document for short-term action points and the aspirations for medium and long-term to demonstrate to the public that actions are being taken as quickly as possible. 


Cllr McDowell commented that he found it difficult to support the plan in its current state as he was not confident that the strategy could deliver net zero by 2030 for Dacorum.  MP clarified that the plan for 2030 is for the organisation to be net zero, not the borough. 


In response to a comment from Cllr McDowell on the suggestion that they would be unable to replace fossil fuel heating until 2030, MG stated that the UK supply chain doesn’t currently have the capacity to deliver this and will take longer.  Cllr McDowell stated that the council controls the maintenance of its housing stock and suggested that they look to train their own staff to provide insulation, adding that the plan should be looking at how it overcomes hurdles to deliver action within the limited timeframe. 


Cllr Birnie noted the lack of control over third parties and asked why there is no attempt by the council to impose conditions on developers to ensure all new housing complies with standards.  JD stated that there are limits on what they can impose as building regulations are not under their control, and they are instead looking at charging points and other sustainable measures that they are able to build in.  Cllr Birnie stated that the report therefore needs to specify that they are unable to control third party emissions but that they would look to impose regulations to ensure new houses meet the necessary standards where possible.  MG stated that the Future Homes Standard will help improve sustainability though it will not reach net zero. 


Cllr England commented on the need for urgency to respond to the climate crisis and that he was concerned at the tension between being sensible and what the reluctance to do more could result in.  Cllr England acknowledged the difficulties presented but that they need to be mindful of the impact of inaction.  Cllr England recommended that item 7 regarding insulation and fabric first be made item 1 and that the pledge to insulate all properties by 2030 be made a priority, adding that the council needs to make a clear pledge on the percentage of properties it aims to improve each year for the next 5 years. 


MG explained that the strategy references the intention to have more detailed actions for 2022-23 and beyond and that high-level actions are set out to be completed by 2030.  MG stated that the target insulating all council properties by 2030 was deemed a more realistic achievement and that changing this to 100% would be for cabinet to consider.  MG noted the comments made regarding the strategy and explained the need to take available resources into consideration. 


Cllr Birnie suggested the following proposal to Members; whilst the report is noted, the committee feels it should be treated as an interim report and feels it lacks sufficient detail on costing.  The committee also recommends that insulation of council property should be made a priority.


Cllr Wyatt-Lowe agreed that the report should be treated as an interim report rather than looking to include targets that may become unachievable and that the report will be developed going forward.  Cllr Wyatt-Lowe objected to the second part of the proposal.  Cllr Rogers supported Cllr Wyatt-Lowe’s comments given the lack of direction around electric vehicles or air source heat pumps at present. 


Cllr Stevens requested that the proposal also state that actions are expected to arise from the interim report.  Cllr Birnie stated that this would be self-evident given the nature of an interim report. 


Cllr Birnie proposed the following recommendation; “whilst the report is noted, the committee feels it should be treated as an interim report and therefore it lacks sufficient detail on costing”.  Cllr Wyatt-Lowe and Cllr England both stated that they would prefer ‘lacking’ to be removed to make the wording more positive. 


The final wording agreed was; “Whilst the report is noted, the committee feels it should be treated as an interim report and therefore looks forward to further detail on costing becoming available in due course.”.

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