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Cambridge City Council

Council proposes net zero target for its own carbon emissions in new climate change strategy

News release from 16 March 2021

CAMBRIDGE City Council has published its proposed new Climate Change Strategy for the next five years.

If the strategy is approved by councillors at the Environment and Community Scrutiny Committee meeting on 25 March, it will set a target for the council to reduce its direct carbon emissions from its corporate buildings, vehicle fleet and business mileage to net zero carbon by 2030.

The new strategy also sets out how the council will provide local leadership on climate change and shares a vision for the city of Cambridge to be net zero carbon by 2030, subject to government, industry and regulators implementing the necessary changes to enable the city and the rest of the UK to achieve this.

The strategy proposes that the council provides local leadership by:

  • Continuing to reduce carbon emissions in the areas where it has direct control, including its own buildings, vehicles and services, and through criteria for procurement and grants.

The council has invested over £1.4m in energy efficiency and renewable energy projects in its buildings, which have contributed to a 28.9% reduction in its carbon emissions from 2014/15 to 2019/20.

The new strategy sets out a broad approach to reducing the council’s direct carbon emissions towards net zero by 2030, primarily through shifting from gas heating to low carbon heating in its corporate buildings. 

This will include installing heat pumps, additional solar PV panels and other energy efficiency measures at Parkside Pools and Abbey Pools this year, subject to planning permission, having secured significant funding from government. This project will reduce carbon emissions from the council’s swimming pools by more than 440 tonnes per year.

The council has also already committed to purchase ultra-low emission vehicles (vans, trucks and refuse collection vehicles) when they are due for replacement (where viable), which could lead to a fully electric or hydrogen council fleet by 2028. 

  • Making energy efficiency improvements to council homes and commercial properties and building new council homes to ambitious environmental standards.

Over the next three years the council is investing £2.5 million (and will seek further government funding when available) to improve the energy efficiency of the lowest-rated existing council homes. It has also committed to build 1000 new homes to Passivhaus standards (where technically feasible and subject to funding) from 2021 onwards and to target net zero carbon standards for council homes built from 2030 onwards.

  • Using the council’s policy and regulatory powers to secure improvements, as far as national policy and guidance allows.

In relation to new homes in Cambridge, the council’s current Local Plan already sets environmental standards for new homes and buildings that are significantly higher than national building regulations. Cambridge and South Cambridgeshire’s joint Shared Planning Service is carrying out an innovative net zero carbon study to consider the planning policies and targets that would be needed to achieve net zero carbon new homes and buildings in the new Greater Cambridge Local Plan (subject to the constraints of the national planning policy framework).

The council has already introduced regulations requiring all taxis to be Ultra Low Emission Vehicles (ULEVs) or zero emissions vehicles by 2028, which is the earliest date set by any UK council.

As part of the new strategy, the council will also be implementing a range of other measures to help support a shift to electric vehicles, including completing the installation of 21 electric charge points for taxis, installing electric vehicle charging points in council car parks and property, and working with Cambridgeshire County Council to pilot on-street charging for residents.

However, as the council is only directly responsible for 1.1% of carbon emissions in Cambridge, the strategy recognises that everyone in the city and key bodies beyond, including the government, Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority (CPCA), Cambridgeshire County Council, businesses, other organisations, and local residents all need to play their part. As part of its new strategy, the council will aim to work collaboratively with all these groups to reduce carbon emissions.

In declaring a Climate Emergency in February 2019, the council also called on government to make the investment and changes needed for Cambridge and the UK to reach net zero carbon.

This includes the need for continued government investment in decarbonising the national energy grid, more significant funding for local areas to improve the energy efficiency of existing homes, and greater planning powers for councils to set high environmental standards for new homes and buildings in their area.

Cllr Rosy Moore, Executive Councillor for Climate Change, Environment and City Centre, said: “The council has already taken significant steps to reduce its own direct emissions by 28.9% over the past six years.

“This new strategy sets an ambitious target for the council’s direct emissions to be net zero carbon by 2030, whilst maintaining vital services to the city. We plan to achieve this through further investment in low carbon solutions for our buildings and switching our fleet to electric vehicles and other low carbon alternatives.

“The strategy also shares a wider net zero carbon vision for the city and sets out how the council will play its part in contributing to this, including setting high standards for new homes and buildings in the city, promoting sustainable food and a circular economy, and encouraging a shift to cycling, walking and low emissions vehicles.

“To make Cambridge net zero carbon, we will need much greater investment and stronger policies from government, and a real collective effort by everyone in Cambridge to save energy, reduce emissions, and fight climate change.

“To see how you and your families can start to make a difference, why not calculate your carbon footprint and find some very practical ways to reduce it, through the Cambridge Climate Charter.”

Councillors will discuss the proposed strategy at Environment and Community Scrutiny Committee meeting on 25 March – details are available on the council’s website: