Somerset County Council has been ranked as the top county council in the UK when it comes to taking a lead on climate change.
Climate Emergency UK has ranked all 409 local authorities, scoring them against nine categories, including how well councils’ plans would mitigate the impact of climate change locally, whether the climate and ecological emergency was integrated into existing policies, community engagement, climate education, scale of emissions targets, and commitments to tackle the ecological emergency.
Somerset County Council was named as the top county council, meanwhile Somerset West & Taunton Council was ranked as the top district council.
A report in The Guardian also recognised the Somerset Climate Emergency Strategy, developed jointly by Somerset County Council, Mendip District Council, Sedgemoor District Council, South Somerset District Council, and Somerset West & Taunton Council; as well as highlighting Somerset Waste Partnership’s Recycle More campaign which has led to recycling rates to increase to more than 50%, among the highest in England.
Cllr David Hall, Somerset County Council Cabinet Member for Climate Change, said: “We’ve set out ambitious plans to help Somerset become carbon neutral by 2030, and we’re delighted to see this work being recognised nationally.”
“We know there is a lot to do and we can’t do it alone, so it is great to see Somerset’s District Councils recognised too.”
“Tackling the climate emergency is at the forefront of our decision making at Somerset County Council and we are determined to build on the good work done so far across Somerset.”
Somerset County Council has made significant investment to combat climate change, alongside the joint work being carried out with District Councils as part of the Climate Emergency Strategy.
Initiatives include the £1.5m Climate Emergency Community Fund, which has been used to help develop community projects which share the council’s vision of working towards a climate resilient Somerset. So far 44 projects have been funded, ranging from installing Solar PV panels on community buildings to supporting community vegetable growing projects.
Somerset County Council has also been busy working to ‘decarbonise’ a number of buildings owned by the Council including a number of libraries, Glastonbury Hub, and County Hall in Taunton. Early estimates indicate that the delivery of the various schemes could reduce the Council’s non-schools estate carbon output by around 27% – around 400 tonnes of carbon per annum. All the remaining projects aside from County Hall are due to be complete by March 2022.
The Council is also currently building its first ‘Passivhaus’ standard primary school at Comeytrowe in Taunton, which will be one of the very few across the Southwest once built. The 420-pupil school, built to high energy efficiency and air tightness standards, aims to be ‘fossil fuel’ free in its daily operation, saving significant annual running costs for the school.
A ‘Cut the Carbon’ campaign this month by Somerset County Council to encourage Somerset residents to take small steps to reduce their own individual carbon footprints. This includes premiering a series of short films to highlight how communities are already doing amazing things to cut the carbon.
The projects showcased in the short films range from the green-minded village of Wedmore to modern thinking from the 850-year-old Wells Cathedral; from community energy in Avalon to growing local veg in Porlock, from retrofitting homes in Bruton to e-scooters in Taunton and the success of the Recycle More programme. You can view the videos on Facebook here.
Somerset County Council’s commitment to replacing high-energy street lighting continues apace too. More than 56% of the Council’s street lighting has now switched to LED lighting, resulting in a reduction of 6,200 tonnes of carbon dioxide during that time.
There has also been investment in Carbon Literacy Training for councillors and council officers, as well as city, town, and parish councils in Somerset, and significant work to develop an Electric Vehicle Strategy, alongside ambitious plans to improve public transport and investment in more cycling and walking routes.
To keep up to date with latest information about tackling the climate emergency in Somerset, visit Climate Emergency.