County council set to meet UN emissions target as Devon becomes ‘carbon neutral’ by 2050

Posted on: 28 January 2019

Devon County Council’s cabinet has recommended that the authority  declare a ‘climate emergency’ and forge ahead with a county-wide partnership to ensure that Devon is carbon neutral by 2050.

The notice of motion follows the latest warnings from the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) of the devastation a 2°C rise in global temperatures could cause.

The cabinet’s recommendation to Full Council that the authority declare the emergency was made at Devon County Council’s cabinet meeting on Wednesday January 9.

The 15th Special Report from the IPCC, published late last year, also identifies the global benefits of limiting warming to 1.5°C by reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

Consequently, DCC will be working with strategic partners across the county to ensure the county is on the right course meet the IPCC carbon reduction recommendations.

Partners include Natural Devon (the Local Nature Partnership), the Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership, the Exeter and East Devon Low Carbon Task Force and the Devon Community Energy Network.

The Special Report warns that a 2°C rise in global temperatures would put up to 30% of all species at risk of extinction, 90% of tropical coral reefs would be lost, crop yields would reduce and droughts will become more common.

It adds that by limiting warming to 1.5°C, by reducing greenhouse gases (GHGs),  50% fewer species will be at risk of significant habit loss, 10 million fewer people will be displaced due to sea level rise and 420 million fewer people will be exposed to extreme heatwaves.

In addition, the chance of sea-ice-free Arctic summers will reduce to 1 in 100, instead of 1 in 10 at 2°C. The IPCC recommend reducing global GHG emissions by 45% of 2010 levels by 2030 and by 2050 not emitting any GHG’s at all.

DCC reviewed its Climate Change Strategy in 2018, which commits the authority to assist the UK in meeting national climate targets.

Key areas of work include help for vulnerable people to improve the efficiency of their homes through the Cosy Devon and the Local Energy Advice Programme (LEAP) and providing superfast broadband which would reduce the need to travel for reasons including work.

The council also supports renewable energy initiatives, which help communities to generate their own energy, and promotes sustainable transport projects.

DCC is also working with Exeter City Council, Exeter University, Exeter Community Energy and Swanbarton Limited on The Local Energy Market in Devon and Exeter (LEMDEx) project. Increasing the use of local renewable energy will help reduce carbon emissions and energy costs.

Through DCC’s environmental performance programme, the authority’s GHG emissions have reduced by 36% since 2012/13, which is on track to meet DCC’s policy target of a 50% reduction by 2030.

This has been achieved through the retrofitting of LED lighting, replacing less efficient boilers, and swapping desktop computers with more efficient laptops in its buildings.

Other changes include switching street lamps to part-night operation and upgrading to LED lighting- street lighting. Street lighting accounts for a significant amount of the county council’s carbon emissions.

Over the past three years, the County Council has converted over 25,000 street lights to low energy LED technology and has replaced more than 5,400 streetlighting columns.

Improvements in vehicle efficiency in the county council’s vehicle fleet and technology that reduces the need to travel for work such as Skype, have also contributed to the reduction of DCC’s emissions.

There are also benefits provided by the reduced carbon-intensity of electricity purchased from the National Grid through the deployment of renewable energy.

Councillor Roger Croad, Devon County Council’s Cabinet Member for the

Cllr Roger Croad

Environment said: “There is a climate emergency and climate change will affect the environment, people, businesses and our prosperity.
“That’s why we will be working with strategic partners to develop a plan to ensure that Devon is on the right trajectory to meet the IPCC’s carbon reduction recommendations.”

16 comments on “County council set to meet UN emissions target as Devon becomes ‘carbon neutral’ by 2050

  1. Godfrey Whitehouse says:

    please can you tell me where it is written down in official Council or Cabinet resolutions that the Council is adopting a target to be carbon neutral by 2050? I have not been able to locate it.

  2. Elizabeth Durrant says:

    Your post above states “The cabinet’s recommendation to Full Council that the authority declare the emergency was made at Devon County Council’s cabinet meeting on Wednesday January 9”. Was a decision made on the 9th? If not when will it be decided? Where can we read in more detail what the impacts of this decision and what is the best way to support the decision and help implement effective change? Thank you

  3. Philip Strange says:

    Please can someone tell me what the phrase “carbon neutral” actually means in practical terms?

    • david.beasley says:

      Dear Phillip, thanks for your message.

      If Devon achieved carbon neutrality it would mean that the balance of carbon dioxide emissions created in Devon (positive) and the amount of carbon dioxide taken out of the atmosphere (negative) in a year equals zero. An example of an activity that takes carbon dioxide out of the air is tree planting.

      The focus must be on reducing emissions. We need to use renewable energy, develop new technology, and make our lifestyles more energy efficient.

  4. Maurice Spurway says:

    As a supporter of the original Climate Emergency motion which calls for carbon neutrality by 2030 (at the latest), I am perturbed by the relaxation of the target date to 2050.

    It has to be recognised that the IPCC Special Report itself has been watered down from the original scientific position.

    When “committed emissions” are taken into account, the planet is already locked into more than 1.5 degrees of warming. And when the Arctic Ice Sheet melts fully during the summer months (expected 2030-2035) this will add a further 0.5 degrees of warming.

    The nature of this “emergency” is that we may have triggered sufficient tipping points to have set in place a runaway climate scenario.

    Thus we have to cut emissions “as soon as humanly possible”. Implementing a WW2 Mobilisation Strategy could achieve this by 2025-2030.

    As Ban Ki Moon said 10 years ago “this is an emergency, and for an emergency situation we need emergency measures”.

    • Dear Maurice, 2050 is the absolute deadline for Devon to become carbon neutral. If viable and we have sufficient support from others we will bring this target forward.

  5. Barry Cohen says:

    I completely agree with both Peter Scott’s and Sue Ifould’s comments. This is certainly a step in the right direction, but I believe we should be aiming for 2030 as explained already.
    I am, however, rather perplexed as I was present at the Cabinet session on 9th January and do not recall the cabinet making this announcement.

    • Hi Barry, thanks for your message. It was a Notice of Motion presented to the cabinet. The motion proposed by Cllr Hart, leader of the council and seconded by Cllr Croad, the cabinet member for environment.

  6. Peter Scott says:

    Then I pledge you will have that backing!
    What level of backing do you require, from whom and when do you need it by?
    Please reply by email peterscott8765@gmail.com

    • david.beasley says:

      Dear Peter, thanks for your support. I’ll pass you details onto it on to our environment team.

  7. Sue Ifould says:

    This decision by DCC is most encouraging. The next goal must surely be to bring the target of becoming carbon neutral by 2030 to have any chance of achieving the limit of 1.5°C warming.
    Positive action taken at County level is a really important part of the drive to get change – right through from individuals to national and international commitment to tackle the overwhelming impact of global warming.

  8. Peter Scott says:

    I congratulate DCC for some straight talk, common sense and a sound decision. I also point out that the IPCC’s predictions are conservative and likely to be an understatement of the gravity of the situation. They do not take into account the impact of tipping points, like the disappearance of Arctic ice and the consequent warming as reflective ice turns to absorbent ocean, or the discharges of methane from the melting ice sheets in Greenland etc.
    That being the case, will DCC change the carbon neutral by 2050 target to 2030 as Cornwall did?
    Here is a link to Greta Thunberg’s address to World Leaders at Davos plus a transcription from the Guardian. She articulates it better than anyone.
    video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M7dVF9xylaw
    transcription https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/jan/25/our-house-is-on-fire-greta-thunberg16-urges-leaders-to-act-on-climate
    I hope and pray the Climate Emergency can be recognised not only County wide in Devon, but nationally in the UK, and internationally in every country that can overcome the influence of the fossil fuel industry, which regards its own profitability as a higher priority than the survival of the human species.
    Unless a mobilisation on a scale we have never seen before takes place to tackle this problem, and very soon, our future as a species looks very precarious.

    • david.beasley says:

      Dear Peter, thanks for your message and support. In regards to bringing the carbon-neutral pledge forward I will endeavour to reply with an answer as soon as I can.

    • david.beasley says:

      Peter, the absolute deadline for Devon to become carbon neutral must be 2050 and we will support bringing this target closer if it is shown to be viable and has backing from others.

Posted in: Environment