Decision details

Strategic approach to decarbonising county council assets and operations

Decision Maker: Environment, Economic Growth and Transport Scrutiny Committee

Decision status: For Determination

Is Key decision?: No


A review of the overall approach to decarbonising county council assets and operations.


The Chair welcomed County Councillor Shaun Turner, Cabinet Member for Environment and Climate Change, Debbie King, Head of Environment and Climate Change, and Andrew Mullaney, Director of Environment and Planning, to the meeting.


The report provided an overview of the process being followed to calculate the carbon emissions from the estate and operations of the county council; together with the approach being taken to prepare options and costings for action to reduce emissions. This work would be available towards the end of 2024.


The committee thanked the officers for the detailed report and presentation, a copy of which is attached to the minutes.


Comments and queries raised from the committee were as follows:


·  It was acknowledged that county council owned buildings across the county were in various states of condition. In the first instance, efforts to reduce emissions had focussed on lower-level interventions and a fabric first approach opting to insulate buildings rather than replacing heating systems or installing heat pumps. A prudent approach towards investing in council buildings was required, especially if they were to be disposed of in the future.

·  The committee queried the challenges with schools' emissions being out of scope from the council's work and what else could be done. Officers acknowledged that there were a number of educational programmes the council could promote such as the Eco Schools programme that were promoted via the Schools' Portal. In addition, there was an annual sustainability conference which schools were encouraged to attend.

·  For the council's large procurement contracts valued over £5 million, bidders must have carbon reduction plans in place to be considered.

·  It was clarified that all of the council's supply chain and procurement decisions would fit into scope 3 emissions. However, it was reported that these emissions were a challenge to measure. Some councils were looking to include their top purchasing lines with big suppliers and reviewing how to incorporate those into reporting.

·  Regarding street lighting, it was confirmed that all actions to reduce emissions as low as possible had been taken and that the council had also purchased a green energy tariff (Renewable Energy Guarantees of Origin (REGO)) to offset emissions. The report recognised that this purchasing decision had a positive impact on the council's emissions, but that street lighting was still included in the overall figures due to current reporting advice – the council differentiated between location-based emissions and purchasing decisions that offset emissions elsewhere. It was further noted that there was a lack of guidance on how to report offsetting emissions.

·  It was noted that in theory the council's fleet emissions would move from scope 1 to scope 2 due to switching from diesel to electricity, and continuing to purchase green energy would effectively offset emissions from those.

·  On reaching Net Zero with electric vehicles, it was highlighted that there would always remain residual emissions, which would require the council to either implement energy generation or offsetting to balance the matter out. In addition, as the National Grid decarbonises, the emission factor over future years would continue to reduce.

·  While the government's national target was to achieve Net Zero by 2050 with the Grid being decarbonised, the key factor for councils to determine was whether they could aim for a date before 2050. It was highlighted that when setting such targets, cost factors needed to be considered – the further ahead of the national goal that a council aimed for, the higher the costs incurred would be.

·  One member felt there was a lack of urgency across the council regarding climate initiatives. Whilst it was highlighted that the council had already reduced its emissions by a third since 2019, the council now had a dedicated team who was working on a meaningful, and realistic plan to achieve Net Zero.

·  Officers confirmed that a Carbon Descent Plan was being produced that would present a range of scenarios and interventions required to go ahead of the national target and the costs associated with those options. The plan would be presented to Full Council by the end of 2024.


In summarising, the Chair thanked officers for the report and looked forward to receiving further reports that were relevant to the committee's remit.


Resolved: That no recommendations be made at this time.

Corporate Priorities : Protecting our environment;

Divisions Affected: (All Divisions);

Contact: Gary Halsall Email: Tel: (01772) 536989, Debbie King Email: Tel: 01772 534195.

Report author: Gary Halsall

Date of decision: 25/04/2024

Decided at meeting: 25/04/2024 - Environment, Economic Growth and Transport Scrutiny Committee

Accompanying Documents: