On course to meet climate experts’ recommendations

Photo of solar panels

Posted on: 22 February 2019

Thanks to everyone who contributed to the climate change discussion at County Hall yesterday.

Some people were surprised to hear about the amount of work the council is doing to reduce carbon emissions – and suggested that perhaps we are not very good at telling people about it! So here are some of the key points highlighted by our cabinet member for environment Roger Croad to councillors yesterday:

Our (the council’s) carbon emissions have gone down 36 per cent since 2013. We are on course to meet the 45 per cent reduction by 2030 (of 2010 levels) recommended by climate experts, and the amount of energy we use is 21 per cent less than we used five years ago.

Street lighting accounts for a massive slice of our carbon footprint – and the energy we use to keep the lights on is almost a quarter less now than it was in 2013.

We’ve done that by fitting 25,000 streetlights with LED lights and switching to part-night street lighting.

As of this month no kerb side rubbish from ‘black bags’ (waste not separated out for recycling by homeowners) is landfilled. Instead it’s converted into energy. We’ve applied to transform one of these old landfill sites into a solar farm.

We are continuing to fund projects to install solar panels on public buildings and we are working with several councils on a range of renewable energy projects.

And we have applied for funding to kickstart a scheme that will help vulnerable people to replace their old energy-guzzling storage heaters with more efficient central heating.

Devon currently has 23 community energy organisations, more than any other county in the country. And most of these schemes were kickstarted thanks to our support.

Our recycling rate is 54%, making us one of the top recycling counties in the country while our plastics strategy removes 100,000 plastic items from our food outlets every year.

But we’re not content. We’re not stopping there. There’s still a lot more to do. So this isn’t an exhaustive list, but it does provide a snapshot of what we are doing. If you want to hear more, listen to the discussion yesterday online.

19 comments on “On course to meet climate experts’ recommendations

  1. Terence says:

    Is there any restrictions of solar panels on roofs in the Lynton area

    • Hi Terence, thanks for your email. I advise you ask your local planning authority, the Exmoor National Park Authority, as they would be able to tell you of any restrictions or planning policies in the area.

  2. Thank you everyone who has taken time to post a comment. Climate change is one of the biggest concerns for our planet – on that there is no doubt. And that is why it is essential that we all take responsibility, and each of us work in every way we can, as individuals and as organisations, towards carbon neutrality. The ambition for the county of Devon is to become carbon neutral by the IPCC’s own target date of 2050, at the latest. At the latest. Where there are opportunities to achieve this sooner, we will take them. But, to say again, we – Devon County Council – are but one partner among many that care about the climate, and we can’t do this alone. To achieve this target, sooner if possible, takes huge collaborative effort, and everyone in Devon must play their part.

  3. Duncan Hutchinson says:

    does glass bottle recycling really make sense? I assume that it involves melting it all over again. Doesn’t that guzzle almost as much energy as making new glass in the first place? Point me towards some credible scientific organisation / consultancy that’s done a definitive environmental audit of this practice. Multiple use of bottles sounds a better bet to me, and could be encouraged by a returnable deposit scheme, as was quite normal into the 1960s. And that way the manufacturers take on the cost and responsibility, rather than the hard-pressed public sector. Are we going backwards here? Please assure me that I’m wrong!

    • Dear Duncan, thanks for your message. The government has launched a series of consultations to overhaul the current waste system in England, two of which specifically identify a proposed return scheme and increased producer responsibility.

      The consultations detail plans to make packaging producers pay the full cost of dealing with their waste and to introduce a Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) for cans and bottles made from plastic, metal and glass.

      Currently, packaging producers pay only around 10% of the cost of dealing with packaging waste. By increasing that to cover the full amount, government will incentivise producers to think carefully about using less packaging, switch to using packaging that is easier to recycle, or consider other alternatives eg reuse. The proposed Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) system will raise between £800 million and £1 billion a year for recycling and disposal.

      You can contribute to the EPR consultation here https://consult.defra.gov.uk/environmental-quality/consultation-on-reforming-the-uk-packaging-produce/.

      The proposed deposit return scheme to increase recycling rates is also subject to consultation. The consultation looks at the details of how such a scheme would work, alongside other measures to increase recycling rates. Similar schemes already operate in countries such as Denmark, Sweden and Germany. Possible variants of a deposit return scheme include cash rewards for returning drinks containers without an upfront deposit which may be achieved through a network of ‘reverse vending machines’, where you insert your plastic or glass bottle or can and the machine returns your money. Once a bottle is returned, businesses are then responsible for making sure they are effectively recycled – a move that has led to a 97% recycling rate in Germany.

      You can contribute to the DRS consultation here https://consult.defra.gov.uk/environment/introducing-a-deposit-return-scheme/consult_view/

      Although the proposals above do not address reuse specifically, it is an option that producers may investigate. In terms of environmental and financial benefits, an independent study from WRAP in 2008 (http://www.wrap.org.uk/sites/files/wrap/Refillable%20glass%20beverage%20systems%20-%20FINAL1.pdf) reports that “the level of benefits refillables have over single use systems is dependent on a number of key factors, e.g. capture rates, transport distances and recycling rates. This stresses the need to view refillables on a case-by-case basis and not simply to promote the wholesale use of refillables irrespective of circumstance”.

  4. Kelly says:

    So glad to hear about all the great things that Dcc are doing to combat climate change… and even better that you are going to do more….. looking forward to hearing about the plan now you have declared climate change as an emergency! I thought the ipcc recommendation was carbon neutral by 2050?

    • Hi Kelly, thanks for your message. The IPCC has said carbon emissions need to be reduced by 45% by 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality by 2050 at the latest. Councillor Croad said at Council that the authority will facilitate a Devon-wide Carbon Plan. We’ll look to establish a task group to research the implications of becoming carbon neutral and then collectively set a target-year for carbon neutrality that is viable yet stretching. The IPCC’s recommendation of 2050 will be the absolute deadline.

  5. Jennifer Hobson says:

    You are still not doing enough. Central government is not doing enough. The lack of political will at a local as well as national level to tackle climate change is staggeringly irresponsible. So don’t get too pleased with yourselves, you have a long way to go AND very little time to do it in.

    • Jennifer, we agree that the County Council and all of Devon’s other authorities, businesses and residents have a long way to go and very little time to do it in. Reducing carbon emission to zero is going to take commitment from everybody in the county. This is the reason why Councillor Croad said at Council that the authority will facilitate a Devon-wide Carbon Plan. We’ll look to establish a task group with other organisations to research the implications of becoming carbon neutral and then collectively set a target-year for carbon neutrality as the County Council can’t do this by itself. Doing this together will enable key organisations to be involved in the process.

  6. Bridget Walton says:

    Don’t do all Donald Trump on us Devon County Council. You are misquoting the sources (re your statement above “meet the 50 per cent reduction by 2050 recommended by climate experts”). Here is what is required according to those scientists who know (including leading scientists from University of Exeter and Met Office based in Exeter):
    “The world would have to curb its carbon emissions by at least 49% of 2017 levels by 2030 and then achieve carbon neutrality by 2050 to meet this target, according to a summary of the latest IPCC report, released on 8 October. The report draws on research conducted since nations unveiled the 2015 Paris climate agreement, which seeks to curb greenhouse-gas emissions and limit global temperature increase to between 1.5 and 2 °C.” (reference summary here: https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-018-06876-2)
    We need you to, not only undertake a 50% reduction in your own emissions, but also take a complete overhaul of those areas of that you control the structural responses for too. As transport emissions form 26% of all emissions you need to revisit this area of policy, using an enable/disable partnership of actions to enable sustainable travel and disable non sustainable travel. Including in the rural areas. Sound challenging? Yep – that’s why this is an emergency and needs urgent action. The same old, same old with a few tweaks will not deliver what is needed.

  7. Susie says:

    If there is to be a real reduction then everyone one has to use 50% less energy, every resident, consumer and worker. 50% less heating, consuming non consumables, buying only local seasonal. This requires MASSIVE systemic change and greening around the edges, whilst very well meaning is not touching on the necessary reductions to mitigate, let alone, lessen climate change impacts. Consider the traffic, and the increase alone in students and homes in Exeter, none of these are built to passive standards and yet, they could be, that would mean they need NO heating. Where is the greening of infrastructure so all new homes have to cycle bus or train tow work/ school? As unachievable as those goals sound, they are what IS needed to reduce our impact. Massive changes and not just at council level, but individual level. This needs schools outreach, traffic change, and DECLARING a climate emergency NOW. We changed for the war, we can do it again. Get people involved, don’t push them away, they are your greatest asset and ally. They have knowledge and experience and passion. Use them, US to help. Now. Please .

  8. Caspar says:

    This post confirms that Devon County Council have no idea of the severity of the situation in which we find ourselves.

    Their own Conservative Economist Lord Stern said we should be on a war footing, he said this five years ago and still this local cabal of old men refuses to even understand the issue let alone act accordingly.

    Both Cornwall and Somerset council had the tenacity to declare a zero carbon target of 2030. Our council chose to make this someone else’s problem a kick it further down the road.

    It is little wonder that the Tories have such a small vote share amongst the young. This behaviour is only going to reduce that vote share further as they expose the fact they are bereft of leadership capable of dealing adequately with the greatest danger we all face.

  9. Christy says:

    While what DCC is doing to combat climate change is commendable I hear that the council voted against a 2030 target for Devon to become carbon neutral. This target is imperative to keeping global warming below 1.5°C – past which catastrophic weather patterns will devastate the lives of millions of people and start a chain reaction to the loss of all life on earth. This is not a drill, this is an emergency which we still have time to do something about. Yes the changes needed are drastic but they are imperative.

  10. Rebecca Gethin says:

    It is great to know this but you really need to speed up this whole project. You were asked to aim for 2030 but you turned this down so I hope this means you will now bring it forward to say 2024/5. There is so little time left.

  11. Rivka Jacobs says:

    A good start, but you are not doing enough. We need to commmit to a 2030 timescale to bring the change that is needed. Cornwall and Somerset councils are prepared to do much more.
    We need you too more.

  12. Taz says:

    Whilst I commend what you have been doing it simply isn’t enough. Committing to a 2030 timescale is vital to bring about the kind of change that is needed. If you have a deadline you are much more likely to act, saying ‘we will see what we can do’ is doing the next generation a massive disservice. Leaving it to them to sort out is simply not an option. I have just completed a 4 week Climate Science course run by Exeter University, perhaps some of your members would like to do the same.

  13. Tim Eggins says:

    Well done for the work that you have achieved so far, but this is not nearly enough. With the figures that were released stating that we had just 12 years left to stop runaway Climate Change why did you choose 2050 as your climate emergency target ? It sounded more like a suicide note than a statement for change

  14. Lynn says:

    That’s fantastic – thanks for sharing! I think it’s so important to hear what councils are doing. There’s a big movement to encourage consumers to take small steps to make a difference so it’s good to read about the bigger steps made by the council.

    Please continue to who it about your progress ?

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