Northumberland County Council (NCC) understands that climate change needs to be acted on urgently. This is why we have declared a climate emergency and set our goal to make Northumberland net-zero by 2030. Internally, the Council also aims to have halved its emissions across its own estate and operations by 2025.
Climate change is a significant long-term challenge for the planet and for Northumberland. This has been evident in the increasing frequency and severity of storm events, such as the recent Storm Arwen which has caused devastation across the region. We are all the more committed to taking action to reduce the impact of climate change on all our lives, long into the future.
Since the publication of our Climate Commitment Action Plan 2020-21 in January last year, we have continued to work hard on this agenda and have made good progress against our plans, despite the upheaval caused by Covid-19.
Our first Climate Commitment Action Plan 2021-23 has established the foundations of our climate change programme, divided into seven key priority action areas: policy, partnership and engagement, heat, transport, renewable energy, sequestration and waste. We have since grown our Climate Change Team and the number of projects planned for delivery in the near future, working towards our longer-term vision for net-zero.
Becoming a net-zero Council by 2025:
Over the last decade, NCC began implementing renewables into its estates. There are numerous projects in the pipeline, including the innovative solar car port at County Hall in Morpeth, which is scheduled for completion in Summer 2022. Over the 2020-21 financial year, 737,998 kWhs of electricity was generated for Council sites using solar PV, meeting 2.2% of our estate’s electricity demand. There has also seen the installation of ground source heat pumps, which will contribute a saving of 8021.8 tCO2 over the next 20 years.
Additionally, multiple projects have contributed to the decarbonisation of the NCC estate. We have completed the LED roll out to UMS street lighting. We are also in the process of upgrading all NCC small fleet vans with electric vans.
Together, using the information available from BEIS up and to including the 31 March 2021, the Council is now reporting emissions of 25.21kt CO2 compared to 50.5kt CO2 in 2010 and therefore has achieved a 50% reduction in emissions.
We recognise that these projects are just the first step, and we are committed to continuing to reduce our emissions as a Council. NCC has rolled out educational programmes available to all NCC staff from the Carbon Literacy Trust. Educating our staff about the importance of climate change, its impact on Northumberland, and action that can be taken both individually and within their work areas will be key to integrating climate-thinking into every aspect of NCC’s work. Consequently, carbon impact assessments will be used by officers across the Council to calculate their carbon score against each new proposal, so that carbon emissions are considered in all key project and decision making going forward.
Getting Northumberland to net-zero by 2030:
Across Northumberland, projects to help reduce emissions in heat, transport, renewable energy, sequestration and waste are underway. Once complete, these projects will deliver a 31.5 ktCO2 reduction. These include:
- The Green Homes Grant: a £3million fund towards improving energy efficiency in the most inefficient and low-income homes in collaboration with E.ON.
- The installation of electric vehicle charging points: an additional 52 charge points will be installed this financial year in public areas.
- Glass recycling pilot undertaken in 2020/21 was a great success. There are views to expand this scheme in the near future.
- Afforestation: over 767 hectares of woodland have been created since large-scale forest creation was made a Council priority in 2019, with an additional 240,000 trees planted elsewhere. It is estimated that this additional woodland has the potential to capture up to 59.75 ktCO2 by 2030.
There are also some exciting projects in the pipeline. Funding has been awarded for the first stage of investigation (heat mapping) for a low carbon district heat network in Alnwick, Ashington, Berwick, Hexham and Morpeth, and also for second stage of design (technoeconomic feasibility) for Blyth and Cramlington.
Additionally, NCC recognises that reaching net-zero by 2030 will require engagement and action from a diverse group of actors and stakeholders. To this end, in 2021 we established the Community Champion Scheme with 25 local groups, who are passionate about actioning change in their communities. Alongside this, the second round of the Free Tree giveaway scheme has provided a great way to engage with residents and community groups across Northumberland and raise awareness for issues of climate change by giving away 15,000 tree saplings each winter.
NCC are continuing to investigate all different lines of enquiry towards our net-zero goals. We are keen to build our relationships with other businesses, non-for-profits, charities and communities across Northumberland to work together towards our shared ambitions to tackle climate change.
NCC also recognise the importance of the national government policy in achieving both Northumberland’s net-zero targets, and how it will contribute to the wider UK goal of net-zero by 2050. We eagerly anticipate the new policy announcements around the Environmental Bill, the Hydrogen Strategy and decarbonisation of the National Grid, and how this might affect our ambitions going forward.
For more information on NCC Climate Change commitments, visit their website where you can find out more, download the action plan and sign up to their newsletter.