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Scrutiny to consider ambitious plans for Leicester to be carbon-neutral by 2030

Published on Thursday, September 10, 2020

5 minute read

City skyline

AN ambitious new strategy to help Leicester respond to the climate emergency will be considered by two city council scrutiny commissions later this month.

The council is in the final stages of developing the first Leicester Climate Emergency Strategy which sets out a vision for how the city needs to change to move towards becoming carbon-neutral and adapting to the effects of global heating by 2030, or sooner.

The draft strategy has been developed following extensive public consultation carried out earlier this year and has been shaped by thousands of responses from hundreds of local people. This included a detailed online questionnaire, two climate assemblies held at City Hall - one which involved over 100 young people from local schools - as well as meetings with experts from the city's two universities and representatives from key businesses, local organisations, community groups and schools across the city.

The online questionnaire was completed by over 370 respondents, who were asked to rate the city council's proposals to tackle the climate emergency by priority, from 1 (lowest) to 5 (highest). The responses showed a very high level of support for the proposed actions with an average overall rating of 4.41.

Initially covering a three-year period from 2020 to 2023, the new strategy will cover six themes, based on the main sources of greenhouse gas emissions and key areas where the city needs to adapt to the effects of climate change.

These six key areas are:

  • At home - homes should be highly insulated with low-carbon heating systems and other energy efficient measures in place to help reduce emissions and household bills. This includes investment in insulation, solar panels and support for households facing fuel poverty.
  • Travel and transport - investment in walking, cycling and low-carbon public transport should mean less traffic. Petrol and diesel vehicles should be replaced with cleaner, ultra-low emission alternatives to help cut greenhouse gases.
  • Consumer choice and waste - increase rates of recycling and composting, reduce the use of single use plastics and help people make climate-friendly choices about food, consumer goods and travel
  • At work - Leicester businesses should be helped to develop low carbon services and products. Support will be available for small businesses to reduce their carbon emissions. New low carbon workspaces will be created for start-ups.
  • Land use, green spaces and development - ensuring that new developments address the climate emergency by being extremely energy efficient and generating their own renewable energy. Continued investment to deliver schemes that reduce flood risk across the city too.
  • The council - decarbonising the council's own buildings, fleet and operations to become carbon neutral and climate adapted as soon as possible.

An accompanying action plan - which will be updated on a yearly basis - sets out an initial programme of over 120 actions that will support the strategy and will help achieve the ambitious carbon savings required.

Highlights include plans to build 38 low-carbon council houses at Saffron Lane which will emit around 70 per cent fewer carbon emissions than a typical new house built to the Building Regulations standard and help cut running costs for tenants.

A programme to install more than 800 energy saving measures on council houses across the city will also help save nearly 580 tonnes in carbon emissions.

Multi-million investment in council-led programmes to encourage more use of cleaner, greener sustainable transport will see the creation of over 40km of new permanent and pop-up cycleways, over £1.4million of grant support for ultra-low emission vehicles and the introduction of electric buses on local park and ride routes.

The council will also continue to green up its own fleet with the purchase of 19 more electric vehicles over the next 12 months.

Grants will be available to support about 200 local small businesses install energy-saving and renewable energy measures in a new phase of the successful Green BELLE project. This could result in carbon savings of around 1,200 tonnes.

Capital investment of £2.2million in energy efficiency measures at schools will result in carbon saving equivalent to around 530 tonnes.

A new programme of carbon literacy training will be delivered to over 2,100 young people, teachers, student ambassadors and local decision-makers to help broaden engagement across the city.

A permanent Young People's Climate Emergency Board will also be established to provide an additional level of oversight on the progress of the Leicester Climate Emergency Strategy.

Alongside these and other immediate actions, the city council will begin vital longer-term planning, feasibility studies and lobbying of the Government to help steer the city towards carbon neutrality over the next ten years.

The draft strategy and action plan have already been reviewed by an independent panel made up of experts from the University of Leicester and De Montfort University. The panel commended the high level of ambition articulated through the strategy's vision for the city.

Deputy city mayor Cllr Adam Clarke, who leads on environment and transport, said: “It is essential that Leicester plays its part in tackling the climate emergency, which is already having an impact here and globally, particularly in the developing world.

"This draft strategy provides a vision for how Leicester needs to change to become carbon neutral by 2030. We don’t underestimate the challenge for the council and the wider city.

“Citywide carbon emissions have nearly halved since 1990, and the council's own carbon footprint has reduced by a similar amount in the just ten years. In recognising this success, we also know we need to go much, much further.

"Our new strategy and action plan set out our renewed ambition and the steps that we as a council will take to help lead Leicester towards carbon neutrality and a climate adapted future.

"We know we won't be able to achieve this on our own. It will take a collective effort from everyone in Leicester, and will require a radical ramping up of support from central Government.

"We have already seen a massive amount of support for this new strategy as part of the far-reaching climate emergency conversation. We hope that when it is launched in the coming weeks it will act as a roadmap and rallying cry for Leicester to become one of the first carbon neutral cities in the UK."

The draft Leicester Climate Emergency Strategy 2020-2023 and accompanying action plan is due to be considered by the city council's Economic Development, Transport and Tourism Scrutiny Committee on Thursday 17 September.

It will go before the council's Overview Select Committee on Thursday 24 September.

The strategy is expected to be formally adopted and publicly launched by the council in mid-October.