Making progress on combating climate change?

We’ve come a long way since 2006 and the launch of ‘An Inconvenient Truth’, the documentary film fronted by former US vice-president Al Gore, explaining the reality of climate change.  Despite the nay-sayers, the scientific evidence is irreputable – and still inconvenient.

Back in 2006 staff at Derby City Council were encouraged to watch the film, and the following spring there was cross-party sign up to a target of cutting the council’s climate change emissions by a quarter in 5 years.

Started while Labour led the Council, and taken forward by the Lib Dems, the work began by creating a body to lead the work – the Council’s ‘Climate Change Board’ .  This originally had a target of 2011 to achieve the 25% cut in emissions.

The first step was to identify what the council’s current emissions actually were.  This was a more challenging job than expected, and the process identified gas and electricity supplies and meters that hadn’t been monitored for years, as well as major unknowns like the impacts of how staff were travelling to work.  Eventually a baseline for 2008/9 was agreed, and the five year period adjusted to end in April 2014.

Meanwhile the other actions were moving forward.  The Council House had not had major work done on it since the 1970s when a two storey extension was built in its centre.  It was inefficient in use of space, not designed for IT and expensive to heat.  Various alternatives were examined for refurbishment or providing a new headquarters for the Council, before deciding on a major rebuild and reconfiguration within the existing walls – which is now started.  By itself this should significantly reduce the Council’s energy use as energy efficiency has been a high priority in the redesign, and fitting many more people into this one building will allow other buildings to be closed.  There will be real cost savings – important in a time of cuts.

The Climate Change Board has led on the project to install a turbine on the Longbridge weir, outside the Council House, to generate electricity from the river flow.  Again, this work is now taking place.  There used to be many turbines on weirs down the Derwent, and there is scope for two others within the city boundary, at Darley Abbey and below Raynesway. 

Together the council hopes these first two projects will reduce the Council’s climate emissions by about 15%.  (See answer to Reg Hand’s question at meeting 110912 on list under Council Questions at cmis.derby.gov.uk/cmis5/PublicDocuments.aspx ).  It’s important to note that neither project was delivered within the original 5 year target period.  And where is the next 10% reduction coming from to achieve the 25%?

There are two clear messages here. 

  • Firstly that significant actions to deliver fundamental changes to reduce energy use may take longer in planning, finance and delivery than hoped.
  • Secondly, that we mustn’t stop looking for further savings.

Meanwhile the Government has set a target of cutting UK emissions by 50% by 2025.  That’s only 14 years away.  The Council will take 7 years to cut the first 15%.  At this rate it could hit 45% reduction by 2025. 

But what are the further major actions the Council can take?  Does anyone know?  It is many months since the Climate Change Board has met, maybe since the Conservatives took over leadership of the Council 18 months ago.  There are no rumours of other significant projects, though there is work going on with schools to reduce their energy use.

And what are all the other businesses and households across the city doing to plan the savings they will need to make in the next 14 years to hit that UK target?  And most will have the full 50% to deliver, not just a remaining 35%.

If we are serious about stopping a runaway climate, we need more action and more commitment.

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