Council’s Net Zero ambitions aim high with first-ever full carbon budget and biodiversity commitment

Suffolk County Council has published proposals for its first-ever full carbon budget, as it strives to be a Net Zero organisation by 2030.

The Net Zero Carbon Budget will allow the council to measure its carbon emissions, and monitor and evaluate the impact of decisions it makes. This will mean it can report each year on its progress, tracking its ambitions towards Net Zero.

There are many activities which the council will monitor, from the energy used powering its buildings to the miles travelled by council workers, from the waste it disposes to the fuel used to run buses and gritters.

Councillor Richard Rout, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Finance and Environment at Suffolk County Council, said:

“This is an historic budget – the first full budget of its kind that the council has ever produced. Becoming a Net Zero organisation by 2030 is incredibly ambitious, but I’m committed to doing everything we can to realise that vision.

“It’s incredibly challenging to have an exact figure for every last gram of CO2 that the council emits. But our officers have worked incredibly hard to collate data so far, giving us a baseline against which we can measure our future emissions. We’ll continue to improve how we gather this data so that we can see our progress to Net Zero by 2030.

“The pandemic has also changed many of our routines, not least around travel and working from home. During 2021/22 we estimate that council workers saw a reduction of about 1.5million miles commuting in their own vehicles, and around 1,800 working weeks of driving. We will continue to learn as we look to new ways of working at the council.”

Suffolk County Council recently announced a £12.8m investment to begin decarbonising the buildings that it owns, reducing emissions and making them cheaper to run. We have a history of providing dedicated investment to improve the energy efficiency of our buildings and services. This has led to reductions in carbon emissions in recent years, through projects such as replacing fossil fuel boilers with bio-mass units, installing solar panels and solar hot water systems, rainwater harvesting, updating lighting and improving insulation.

Growing Suffolk’s Biodiversity 

Proposals have also been published which would see Suffolk County Council enhance the biodiversity value of at least 30% of its land and assets by 2030.

It would also see the council working with partners, communities and landowners to help substantially reverse the decline of biodiversity across Suffolk.

The proposed policy is a result of the work undertaken by the Policy Development Panel which was set up in July 2021.

Councillor Rout said:

“We want to grow Suffolk’s biodiversity, using our role as a significant landowner and as the highway authority to help wildlife to thrive and to support nature’s recovery. We want to extend the great work already going on through our protected landscapes and projects, such as our Roadside Nature Reserves, to increase habitats and species across the county. 

“We will ensure we manage our highway verges for biodiversity wherever we can and support our county farm tenants to enhance biodiversity across our farm estate, as we have done through planting around twenty kilometres of mixed species hedgerows over the last two years. We will also deliver twice the biodiversity net gain required through our housing programme and work with our partners and local communities to enhance biodiversity on our properties.

“There is a clear link with our Net Zero ambitions for the county, with Suffolk’s nature being an integral part of the carbon cycle. I want to ensure that the council is doing everything it can to support nature in the fight to slow climate change, and to show leadership in Suffolk in the way that we look after our natural environment.”

The policy proposal includes ambitions which stretch across the whole organisation, from looking at how it manages highway trees to the impact of street lighting, from how it procures goods and services to the potential nature-based flood management solutions.

The Net Zero Carbon Budget proposal will be presented at the Cabinet meeting on 1 February 2022and discussed at the Full Council meeting on 17 February 2022. The Biodiversity PDP proposal will be presented at the Cabinet meeting on 1 February 2022and can be immediately implemented if agreed.

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