Shropshire Council has been urged to set an annual carbon emissions “budget” for the whole county to steer residents and businesses towards becoming carbon neutral.
The council has pledged to set its own carbon budget to run alongside its financial budget each year, as part of its commitment to achieving net carbon zero by 2030.
The move has now led to calls for the authority to go one step further and actively monitor the carbon emissions of the wider county, of which the council’s own emissions account for just 1.5 per cent.
Adrian Cooper, leader of the council’s climate change task force, told members of the performance management scrutiny committee that the council now had a good idea of its carbon footprint.
He said: “It’s important to recognise that climate change is a really big challenge and that it’s going to take some time because it’s very complex to make tangible progress, but I’m pleased to say we are doing that and there are some positive outcomes to report to you.”
Mr Cooper said the task force had so far focused on measuring the council’s carbon performance, with a “major turning point” coming in December 2019 when councillors signed off the climate change strategy framework.
He said: “The key thing now is to actually produce that strategy and to set out in some more detail the actions the council will need to undertake in order to arrive at that (net zero) performance by 2030.
“That’s not to be underestimated, both in terms of the amount of work that is and the costs involved in doing that.
“But again there is a very important principle that this is an issue that will affect all council services without exception, and the cost of not taking action and not dealing with climate change as an important challenge far outweighs the cost of actually doing something proactive as early as possible.”
Mr Cooper said the task force had worked to establish the council’s direct emissions, though other companies the council buys goods and services from would need help to establish their own carbon footprints in order for the council to get a better understanding of its indirect emissions.
He said the county’s biggest sources of carbon emissions were transport and industry, adding: “Obviously we have less direct influence over those emissions but we can and should and indeed are acting in a way which provides a degree of community leadership and the intention is to lead by example.
Councillor Hannah Fraser said she was pleased to see in Mr Cooper’s report that the council intended to begin producing a carbon budget, but said it was “very vague” on what action needed to be taken to achieve the council’s net zero goal.
Councillor Fraser said: “One of the key things in there is transport across the county and I think there needs to be a much bolder vision about that.
“I would like to see some stronger initiatives on planning documents that guide-stroke-force the building industry into doing better on climate change.
“I welcome the fact that there is going to be a council climate budget and I think it should sit alongside our financial budget in February and we can see both the financial and carbon impact of what we are doing.
“But we also need a county carbon budget and the place that that has to sit is with Shropshire Council.
“Clearly it can’t do everything that’s needed, there are lots of actors that will contribute to that budget but who’s measuring, monitoring and keeping tabs on it? I think that should sit with Shropshire Council.”
Councillor Cecilia Motley supported the idea, saying: “There is little use in having just a council-wide strategy. We need something that can encompass the county and try and involve all our businesses within the county as well.”
The committee recommended that the climate change strategy – including quantified carbon budgets for the council and wider county – be considered by the Communities Overview Committee in the autumn.