Cornwall Council leaders will speed up measures to tackle the climate emergency and prioritise environmental and social benefits for residents as part of the council’s coronavirus recovery plans.
A special report on the council’s emergency Covid-19 response was discussed at a Cabinet meeting this week in which councillors agreed that climate change needed an “equally targeted and immediate response”, in order to meet aims to make Cornwall carbon neutral by 2030.
Cabinet members heard that the Covid-19 recovery and renewal process was a chance to accelerate the council’s work on delivering its climate change action plan.
Having to drastically change working practices because of the lockdown will enable the council to speed up its “transition to new ways of working in a manner unimaginable before the pandemic”, the report says.
It describes how the council has made significant carbon savings as a result of more than 4,000 staff working from home since the start of the lockdown in March.
This includes a daily 42,000-mile reduction in commuting travel and a total energy saving over three months of approximately 270 MWh, or 60 tonnes of carbon, due to 12 out of 35 core office buildings being shut or partially closed.
An increase in remote working has also led to 60% of staff surveyed feeling able to work outside their main office for two or more days a week on a permanent basis.
‘We can work together to create community resilience and accelerate our carbon neutral plans’
The report says returning to business as usual from an operational perspective would be a missed opportunity, and the council’s approach to economic recovery should be led by low carbon practices.
In order to prioritise environmental and social benefits in all of its recovery policies the Council is expanding the use of its pioneering Decision Wheel, based on the ‘Doughnut Economics’ model developed by the award-winning economist Kate Raworth, and introduced last year as part of its climate change action plan. Cornwall is believed to the country’s first local authority to adopt this groundbreaking approach, which is also being used by the Dutch city of Amsterdam.
Edwina Hannaford, Cornwall’s portfolio holder for climate change and neighbourhoods, said: “We have faced this pandemic emergency together, but we are facing another emergency — the climate emergency. The difference is that climate change has a longer lead time, but it will have a major impact on our communities.
“As we focus on the recovery and renewal, and we embrace and establish the new normal, we can work together to create community resilience and accelerate our carbon neutral plans.
“Our process of rebuilding should take into consideration the environmental impacts of the rebuilding process and an acceptance that life in Cornwall shouldn’t just return to pre-pandemic norms.
“The community response and level of volunteering we have seen has been a significant feature to Cornwall’s response to the pandemic and evidence of localism in action. The efforts and energy of our communities is something we will support as we take climate change action together.”
Key schemes of Cornwall Council’s Carbon Neutral Cornwall programme are the 8,000-hectare carbon-absorbing Forest for Cornwall; a new, climate change planning document to promote renewable energy, including the commitment to power all new homes with alternative sources to gas; and a whole house retrofit scheme to make council homes more energy efficient.
For more information on Cornwall Council’s climate change plans, go to cornwall.gov.uk/climatechange