A NEW phase in Leicester’s aim to become a net zero and climate-ready city has been set out in an ambitious action plan covering the next five years.
Leicester City Council’s new draft Climate Emergency Action Plan 2023-28 sets out a series of proposals for how the city can further reduce carbon emissions and adapt to a changing climate.
It has been launched for public consultation this week (w/c 6 Nov).
The new action plan will represent a continuation of years of major investment and ambitious schemes to reduce carbon emissions across the city in response to the climate emergency.
Since launching its first Leicester Climate Emergency Action Plan in 2020, the city council has led on a range of initiatives and secured external funding of over £120million for low carbon initiatives.
- Investment of over £14million in the UK’s first operationally net zero bus station building as part of the St Margaret’s Gateway regeneration project
- An £80million citywide programme of investment in sustainable transport backed by £40million from the Department for Transport’s Transforming Cities Fund (TCF)
- Low carbon, energy efficient improvements to more than 90 council buildings, including schools, leisure centres, libraries and community centres
- Planting more than 28,000 new trees
- Revamping the city’s network of bus shelters with 223 solar powered units and 30 with bee-friendly, living roofs – the most of any city in the UK.
- Launching the Leicester Bus Partnership in 2020 to bring together all local bus operators and the council, working and investing together under an ambitious long term improvement plan. This set out 100 key improvements to be made by 2025, focusing on making bus travel electric, reliable, frequent, easy and great value to use. A year on from launch, 75 of those pledges have been delivered, with the rest on track by summer 2024. This includes introducing electric buses onto six Greenline routes and launching the popular free electric Hop! bus service connecting transport hubs, shopping areas and visitor attractions in Leicester City Centre.
- Securing £19million from the Government's Levelling Up Fund for 67 new net zero carbon workspaces and industrial units.
- Supporting more than 500 owners of less energy efficient homes to install insulation and other energy saving and renewable technologies in their properties
- Installing energy saving measures in more than 2,300 council homes, saving an estimated 1,690 tonnes of carbon emissions (tCO2e) per year
- Supporting more than 200 local small businesses with grants of up to £10,000 to help cover the costs of low carbon, energy-efficient improvements to their premises.
- Launching a ten-year biodiversity action plan and urban grassland strategy to help protect wildlife, conserve habitats and help ensure nature flourishes in Leicester.
- Extending the Eco-Schools programme so that there are now 65 Green Flag schools in the city – the most of any local authority area.
- Commissioning experts from a global consultancy to produce a roadmap report setting out the actions and investment required for Leicester to reach net zero carbon.
Now the city council is aiming to build on these achievements and take further steps to support the role that everyone needs to play to achieve the goal of a net zero, climate-ready city in a new action plan.
The draft plan restates the ambition to reduce Leicester’s carbon emissions to net zero by 2030, or as quickly as possible after that, with government support.
It also sets out how the city needs to adapt to climate change to protect people, buildings, critical infrastructure and the natural environment against the impact of floods, storms, heatwaves and prolonged periods of low rainfall.
Deputy city mayor Cllr Adam Clarke, who leads on climate, economy and culture, said: “When we launched Leicester’s first Climate Emergency Action Plan in 2020, we were under no illusion about the scale of the challenge we had set ourselves as a city.
“We’ve achieved a great deal since then, building on Leicester’s already strong record on carbon reduction, but we know we still have a huge amount do as a city.
“Our ambitious new action plan will aim to build on that momentum of the last three years. As a council, we will continue to lead by example and do all we can to reduce our carbon footprint to net zero. We also want to continue to encourage and help others to reduce their own impact.
“The council can’t achieve the goal of a net zero city on its own. To meet this ambition will require significant and ongoing support from the Government and from local stakeholders.
“We all have a role a play. That’s why we’re really interested to hear people’s views on what we’re proposing in our new draft action plan and what we can do to encourage more local action.”
Among the proposed areas of focus that will guide actions over the next five years are: further decarbonisation of council buildings, business units and vehicles; improving the energy efficiency of council homes; promoting access to grants for low carbon improvements for owner-occupied homes; and, helping more local small and medium-sized businesses save energy and reduce their carbon emissions.
Work to encourage more sustainable methods of transports will continue. Plans include more investment for safe routes for walking, wheeling and cycling; further improvements to the city’s bus services, with more electric buses to come; support for freight operators to reduce their emissions; and, increasing the availability of charge-points for electric vehicles across the city.
The new plan also sets out a renewed focus on the city’s need to adapt to a changing climate. This includes ensuring the council’s own construction projects create low carbon, climate-ready buildings and infrastructure; making sure the council’s existing buildings and infrastructure are resilient to climate change; managing council-owned land to reduce flood risk, help tackle heatwaves and support biodiversity; creating new schemes to help prevent flooding; and, ensuring that new development is low carbon, climate-ready and enhances local biodiversity.
Other proposed areas of focus include: improving recycling services; buying low-carbon, sustainable goods and services for the council; supporting people in fuel poverty with information, advice and signposting to grants; helping to ensure that private rented homes meet at least minimum levels of energy efficiency; continued environmental education in schools; and, supporting National Grid to improve the local electricity grid to cope with anticipated increases in demand.
People can have their say on the council’s proposed priorities, including what would make it easier for them to do their bit as part of city-wide efforts, by completing an online survey at www.leicester.gov.uk/consultations
The closing date for comments is Sunday 10 December.
The full, detailed draft Climate Emergency Action Plan 2023-28 is also available to view on the city council's website.