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At a full Council Meeting on 21 February 2019, Devon County Council (DCC) agreed to declare a ‘Climate Emergency’ and to initiate a county-wide partnership to ensure Devon becomes Carbon Neutral by 2050. This means that the total carbon emitted by the county as a whole will need to be balanced out through an equivalent amount of carbon savings.

This action was prompted by the 15th Special Report from the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), warning that a 2°C rise in global temperatures would: 

  • put up to 30% of all species at risk of extinction;
  • 90% of tropical coral reefs would be lost;
  • crop yields would reduce, and;
  • droughts will become more common.

Published in October 2018, the report also identifies that by limiting warming to 1.5°C and reducing greenhouse gases (GHGs):

  • 50% fewer species will be at risk of significant habitation loss;
  • 10 million fewer people will be displaced due to rises in sea levels;
  • 420 million fewer people will be exposed to extreme heatwaves, and;
  • the chance of sea-ice-free Arctic summers will reduce to 1 in 100, instead of 1 in 10 at 2°C.

The IPCC has recommended that by 2030, global GHG emissions should be reduced by 45% of 2010 levels, and 100% by 2050.

In support of the Climate Emergency, the measures that we’ve already taken within our own district to reduce carbon footprint include:

  • Installation of over 1,170 Solar Photovoltaic (PV) systems to our housing stock in 2012, which has since been recognised at the 2019 South West Energy Efficiency Awards (income received from this scheme is being used to fund energy efficiency projects, specifically aimed at providing renewable energy and technologies, and reducing the carbon output from our tenanted residential properties)
  • Installation of Solar PV systems at our main offices at Phoenix House, Tiverton and all three of our leisure/sports centres, which provides a total of 278.32 kWp (kilowatt-peak) of electricity, in turn, saving 150 carbon tonnes per annum, thereby reducing our baseline budget for electricity by around £60k per annum
  • Low voltage lighting upgrades at all three of our leisure/sports centres and the multi-storey car park in Tiverton
  • Installation of Variable Speed Drives (VSDs) for large motors in our air handling units, pool pumps, etc., at Lords Meadow and Exe Valley leisure centres to conserve energy and reduce consumption
  • Implementation of vending machine controls at all three of our leisure/sports centres to reduce energy consumption
  • Optimisation of the boilers at all three of our leisure/sports centres using dynamic control measures
  • Application of pipe lagging on our business properties to reduce heat loss
  • Installation of two Electric Vehicle (EV) charge points at each of our leisure/sports centres, (so far recording nearly 3000 charges saving over 12,000 litres of fuel) and two twin outlet chargers at the multi-storey car park in Tiverton, with the aim of increasing availability as part of a future roll-out across Mid Devon
  • Installation of a Biomass Boiler at Lords Meadow Leisure Centre to reduce gas consumption as part of the Non-Domestic Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) scheme
  • Entered a joint fleet contract provided by Specialist Fleet Services (SFS) in partnership with Exeter City Council on 7 March 2019, with the flexibility of trialling and using vehicles with ever lower emissions (technology pending), over the life of the contract
  • Our kerbside waste collection rounds are constantly under review to ensure the most efficient use of our fleet
  • Almost all the recycling we collect is reprocessed in the UK with the remainder in the EU - none of the waste we collect is exported to developing countries
  • All the food waste we collect is sent to Anaerobic Digestion plants to be used as a source of renewable energy
  • We ceased sending non-recyclable black sack waste to landfill in 2017, instead utilising this waste stream as feedstock for Energy from Waste Plants

Individual homeowners have also benefitted from a range of energy saving initiatives that we’ve promoted: 

Following the declaration of a climate emergency for Devon, we joined DCC along with other public and private sector organisations forming the Devon Climate Emergency Response Group (DCERG), to provide a strategic coordination for a collaborative response.

On 22 May 2019, in partnership with the DCERG, we endorsed a declaration to reduce carbon emissions through:

‘collective action, innovation and influence’.

Named the Devon Climate Declaration, it commits signatories to work together to support a range of measures and initiatives, including:

  • lobbying government to prioritise decarbonisation, and;
  • to provide the resources and funding necessary to accelerate the transition to a low-carbon, resilient economy and society.

In recognition of the impact of climate change, at an Extraordinary Full Council meeting on 26 June 2019, our elected Members voted unanimously to support the ambitious cut in carbon emissions by signing the Devon Climate Declaration. The declaration acknowledges our need to understand the near-term and future risks for Mid Devon and beyond, and sets out the joint ambition with our partners to plan for how our infrastructure, public services and communities will have to adapt to a 1.5°C rise in global average temperature.

It was agreed that the Policy Development Group (PDG) for Environment would act as the initial owner of policy activity regarding Climate Change Emergency within the council. Future PDG meetings would consider how best to determine the council’s own policy response(s), for recommendation to the Cabinet and Full Council for democratic decision making in the normal way.

All organisations are encouraged to sign the Declaration to show the growing support for taking action. If you'd like your organisation to sign, visit the Devon Climate Declaration webpage to print and sign, then send an email to environmentalpolicy@devon.gov.uk with accompanying evidence, such as a hyperlink to the minute of a meeting.

See also other organisations which have already signed.

During DCC's Cabinet meeting on 15 May 2019, it was agreed that a Climate Change Emergency Reserve of £250,000 would be allocated to persuade organisations, communities and individuals to do more to reduce global warming, with some of this money being earmarked to develop a ‘road map’ to help ensure that the county becomes carbon neutral.

Along with the DCERG, on 21 May 2019 we agreed to initiate the next stage to co-design and cost a process for preparing this ‘road map’, named the Devon Carbon Plan.

On 26 June 2019, a Net-Zero Task Force consisting of specialists, drawn from a range of disciplines with expertise in carbon reduction, was appointed to produce an evidence-led plan. Chaired by leading climate expert Professor Patrick Devine-Wright, the Task Force will consider the earliest, credible, date that should be set for net-zero emissions.

See Net-Zero Task Force membership to find out more about the members of the Task Force.

The Task Force will produce a plan using the following three-phase approach:

  1. Evidence gathering
  2. Citizens’ assembly
  3. Development and publication of a draft Devon Carbon Plan

At an Environment PDG meeting on 24 September 2019, our elected Members discussed the formation of a Net-Zero Working Group to define the Council’s policy and strategy in meeting our commitment to the Climate Change Declaration, and to decide the membership of the group. It was agreed that the Working Group would consider:

  1. Being a place for the community voice to be fed to the Council
  2. To map the community voice and ideas against the Devon Carbon Plan
  3. To present further recommendations for what we could do as a District that goes beyond the Devon Carbon Plan

Membership of the Net-Zero Working Group includes: 

An update on the aims and objectives of the Net-Zero Working Group were provided at the following Environment PDG on 26 November 2019, which are to: 

  • Deliver multi-channel communications to promote the work and consultation process by the DCERG and Net-Zero Task Force, so that Mid Devon community groups and residents are encouraged to feed in ideas for action
  • Review the inputs provided to the Net-Zero Task Force on specific actions the District could take to get to net-zero
  • Commission an accurate carbon base-line report for the Council’s operational activities to consider realistic and tangible ways to reduce our own carbon output, as well as supporting residents and businesses in Mid Devon to do the same
  • Liaise with other District Councils to understand what they are doing in terms of producing their own Carbon Plans
  • Consider how to engage local community groups on further ideas for carbon reduction, and methods of implementation in the District
  • Undertake a mapping exercise of local community groups and activities in the District

The Net-Zero Task Force issued a call for evidence to run from Wednesday, 23 October 2019 to Friday 31 January 2020, to gather views, evidence and data.

A series of thematic hearings attended by experts were scheduled between November and December 2019 to determine the barriers and opportunities of tackling carbon dioxide emissions in specific areas such as transport, new development, waste, and agriculture.

The Net-Zero Task Force will use the evidence obtained during this phase to develop recommendations for the Devon Carbon Plan.

At a Cabinet meeting on 19 December 2019, Net-Zero Working Group member and Group Manager for Corporate Property and Commercial Assets, Andy Busby, presented a report detailing the base-line carbon footprint for our operational activities (see also, the full report and our Greenhouse Gas Inventory). With our carbon base-line now established, we can begin to refine our aims through the actions listed below and predict, with some accuracy, the costs associated to reduce our Greenhouse Gas Emissions (GHGs) and hence, our carbon footprint.

Areas we can directly control and guide:

  • Update all our business service plans to reflect climate change as a new corporate priority, including coverage of what each service is doing to progress the climate change agenda in their area of responsibility
  • Introduction of an ‘impact on climate change’ section within all committee reports
  • Development of carbon accounting and a carbon budget
  • Carbon and wider environmental reporting embedded in our operating data/performance management
  • Minimum carbon standards on our properties
  • New build & retrofit of Council housing
  • Increase biodiversity and tree cover on our owned land
  • Review of our fleet with our contractor partner
  • LED lighting to be installed in our corporate stock
  • Recycling containment in Council owned buildings
  • Strategy, policy and vision alignment to ensure coherence with climate change challenge
  • Carbon literacy programmes within the organisation
  • Environmental commitments embedded in values/cultural language
  • Office space strategy and green travel plan
  • Digitising processes (reducing paper usage) and any processes requiring internal/paper mail
  • Drive wider emissions reduction through green procurement approaches to support delivery of low carbon services (e.g. Waste and bus contracts)
  • Embed carbon statements in the information we provide to suppliers
  • Procurement strategies to reduce multi-deliveries
  • Financial models/incentives/disincentives
  • Appropriate taxation/levies/incentives/subsidies/penalties
  • Designing as a package, rather than individual interventions

Areas we can enable through funding:

  • Capital ‘Investment’ Programme
  • Councillors’ Community Chest Funds
  • Services revenue budgets/small scale contracts
  • Reserves

Areas we can enable through policy:

  • Facilitate move towards zero-carbon homes
  • Facilitate new zero-carbon generation
  • Support Education and Skills Pipeline
  • Closing Waste Loops – promote a Circular Economy

Areas we can influence locally:

  • Town & Parish Councils
  • Voluntary & Community sector groups across communities
  • Businesses
  • Other major organisations - Govt Agencies, NHS, Police etc.
  • Safety Partnerships, Pathfinder projects
  • External funding bodies
  • Culture & Heritage

Areas we can influence or ask for nationally:

  • Increase access to climate finance
  • Social, technical, ecological programmes
  • Legislation & regulation of utilities
  • Transport and energy infrastructure
  • Local support of supply chains
  • Major skills programme
  • Planning Policy & Building Regulations
  • Energy/Resilient Innovation Zones
  • Coalitions to address owned fleet and estate
  • Mass Retrofit
  • Scrappage scheme
  • Electrification of rail network
  • Climate levy

(Further updates will be added to this page as they develop).

Your views will play an important role in the production of the Devon Carbon Plan. If you have an idea of your own that you think could help reduce carbon emissions in Devon, read the guidance on DCE - Call for evidence before filling out the online form.

Options drawn up by the Net-Zero Task Force will be tested and refined at a series of Citizens’ Assembly meetings, which will be scheduled to take place in Spring 2020 to help inform the content of a draft plan.

The assembly, which will be convened from January 2020 will comprise a representative sample of Devon’s citizens from different social backgrounds, including young people. They’ll have the opportunity to develop informed opinions and collectively discuss and review policy recommendations on decarbonising Devon.

We, along with the DCERG and the University of Exeter are in the process of working together to decide how the assembly’s membership will be selected and how it will operate on a legitimate and credible basis.

A full public consultation will then be held on the draft plan, with the aim of the DCERG adopting the final plan by the end of 2020.

An initial review of climate-related community risks will also be carried out after the draft plan has been approved to establish a task and finish 'Climate Impacts Group'. This will examine the risks currently identified by the Local Resilience Forum (LRF) to assess the risks of climate impact over the next 10 to 20 years.

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