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Council first to go carbon neutral

Published: Monday, 21 December, 2015

At a meeting of its environment committee held last night, councillors endorsed a report stating that Stroud District Council has become a carbon neutral council. It is thought to be the first council in Europe to announce that the carbon dioxide emissions from its operations have been outweighed by the reduction in emissions from energy efficiency measures and renewable energy installations it has put in place. The announcement comes just a week after the historic agreement on climate change was reached at the UN Climate Change Conference, in Paris.

Councillor Simon Pickering, chair of the committee, said:

“This is a tremendous achievement, which has been delivered through a multi-pronged strategy focused on households, businesses and community buildings, as well as reducing the council’s own operational emissions. We have brought in over £36m investment into county allowing us to create jobs, cut heating bills and, of course, reduce carbon emissions. It’s been a win-win approach to tackling climate change, helping households and stimulating the local economy.

“Carbon offsetting is a long-established and accepted practice and is usually something associated with multi-national companies. Quite often they’ll do something such as plant trees in another part of the world to offset their carbon footprint. From our perspective we’ve been able to make hands-on improvements in our immediate environment.”

The council’s environmental audit for 2014/15 has revealed that its estimated CO2 emissions from its operations of 2,925 tonnes have been outweighed by the 3,275.6 tonnes saved by its environmental initiatives.

As part of keeping its own house in order, council buildings have seen significant solar panel arrays installed, lighting upgrades, and insulation and air tightness improvements. On top of these has been a programme of behavioural change encouraging staff to become more energy efficient. Village and community halls have also received funding to make them environmentally friendly and businesses across the district have also taken part in initiatives to help them reduce their emissions.

However, the greatest contribution by far comes from the council’s work with households which has contributed to 75% of the carbon savings. The council was instrumental in setting up and supporting the Gloucestershire Warm and Well Partnership. Working with Severn Wye Energy Agency, its advice and support to households on energy efficiency projects saved 2,468.6 tonnes of CO2.  It has helped thousands of households across the district with support and guided them to funding initiatives towards energy efficiency improvements and renewable energy measures such as ground source heat pumps, air source heat pumps, solar panels and solar heating. At the same time the council has been instrumental in establishing a network of registered installers to carry out installations to ensure that supply could meet the demand for work.

Councillor Geoff Wheeler, leader of Stroud District Council, added:

“Over several years the council has been implementing its programme to reduce emissions and this year saw the cumulative effect of those measures take us carbon neutral. Households and organisations across the district have benefitted from energy efficiency and renewable installations and, as a social housing provider with over 5,000 homes, we have been able to make major improvements for many of our tenants, helping them to reduce their emissions and furthermore reduce fuel poverty.”

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