To consider the attached report and receive a presentation from the Gloucestershire Youth Climate Group. Report to follow.
8.1 The Chair invited Pete Wiggins to introduce the Gloucestershire Climate Change Strategy Progress Report 2022, members noted the following:
· Scrutiny was asked to feedback on the Annual Progress Report prior to it going to Cabinet in December.
· Gloucestershire’s Youth Climate Group (GYCG) due to present worked with GCC to develop the original strategy in 2019 and since continue to be engaged and review progress.
· Gloucestershire’s carbon performance was published nationally, 2-years in arrears so the data in this report was the most up to date available. It was clear that the country as a whole benefited from drastically reduced emissions in 2020 due to the various lockdowns, and all local authority areas would expect to see a significant rise on emissions for the next data set in 2021.
· Members noted the development of Climate Leadership Gloucestershire as a working group of Leadership Gloucestershire, and whose membership included lead portfolio holders at all Gloucestershire councils, as well as senior directors/managers and who aimed to work together to coordinate a countywide approach to climate change.
· GCC remained on target to achieve its own reduction in emissions by 2030, as set when the council declared a climate emergency.
· The main challenge now was to tackle the Council’s Scope 3 Emissions which were as a result of procurement to third party suppliers and services and had not been included in the original target scope. The Council was in the early days of working to address these and performance would now be reported alongside the original scope.
· Annex 1 of the report included a brief accessible summary of the Council’s approach, progress to date and plans going forward, plus feedback from GYCG and the Youth Climate Action Survey which had received views from almost 3000 young people.
8.2 This was followed by a presentation from members of the GYCG the detail of which can be found here.
8.3 Members started discussions by paying thanks to members of the GYCG who had given their time and courage to attend and present at today’s session, but also for their input on the Strategy’s progress to date. They commended the Group’s enthusiasm and commitment to the environment and our communities.
Questions to GYCG
8.4 A member asked where the group saw action against climate change in 10 years’ time, particularly considering the results of COP27 which did not rule out the use of fossil fuels. The group remained hopeful that there would be positive change in the next few years. They felt there had been some positive action from the COPs and welcomed this level of communication and engagement at a local level on action and remaining challenges. They stressed that organisations and leaders needed to realise that economic growth should be around the climate and environment, not despite of. Growth could be classed as beneficial in the long term if it did not positively impact the environment. It was also noted that, continuing on this path, the cost of climate change adaptation in the future would far outreach any economic growth benefits.
8.5 Considering GCC’s net zero targets, members of the group felt the need to look beyond simply reducing the county’s emissions as they stood, there also needed to be consideration for reversing the impacts that had already happened. They saw offsetting and carbon sequestration as important tools but were very wary of large organisations using them as an excuse to continue huge levels of pollution.
8.6 Several members asked questions to the group on how they, as elected representatives, could help make engagement with local government more accessible for young people. A member particularly reflected on slide 14 which did not list government being a form of inspiration for young people.
8.7 The group stressed one of the key barriers for young people remained the right to vote, they found it incredibly demoralising to have no outlet for their opinions. Local Government remained complicated and foreboding for a lot of young people. This was two-fold in both understanding how it worked, but also not being represented at an elected level. They felt it was invaluable for education and training to be provided through schools to help young people understand how local authority worked, what they did and were responsible for, and then how young people could be involved and show it as a realistic avenue for their futures.
8.8 Similar to the GYCG work, the group emphasised the importance of youth voices on local boards and projects. This level of engagement helped to take the first step in building those relationships.
8.9 Members of the Committee acknowledged that they themselves needed to do more in their own divisions such as reaching out to schools and youth groups and share their knowledge and experience of local government, as well as inviting young people to attend council meetings, for example. The Group added that members could also explore access to lesson plans and teacher resources to help continue young people’s learning.
8.10 A member put forward a proposal, supported by others, that two seats be allocated for young people to co-opt onto the Environment Scrutiny Committee (non-voting) to either observe or give opinions within these meetings. This should also be requested for the Climate Leadership Gloucestershire membership.
ACTION: Democratic Services/Pete Wiggins
8.11 The Cabinet Member for Environment and Planning added that young people should not underestimate the power that they had in influencing others and taking action and engaging at a local level. A responding ask from the Group was for councils to do more in reaching out to young people and providing that two-way street of communication. Whilst noting there be a lot of opportunities locally e.g., working with town and parish councils, young people needed to be made aware of these. It was accepted that GCC had started to evolve and develop better communications, but it had a lot more to do.
8.12 To close the discussion, members again thanked the Group for their challenge and input to date and urged them to keep doing so as the Council moved through its journey towards achieving its net zero targets.
Questions to Pete Wiggins and the Sustainability Team
8.13 Members welcomed the annual update which they felt showed a lot of work was happening, of which they were really grateful to officers for. They also particularly welcomed that the officer team was growing and being properly resourced.
8.14 Due to a number of detailed questions from a member, officers requested to respond in writing after the meeting to ensure they could give the answers sufficient time and attention. The answers to these have been added as an appendix to this minute. Within these questions however, a few clarification points were given:
· The data provided for county wide emissions was published by Government, which meant they also set the scope for both the territorial emissions (everything arising from Gloucestershire) and those within local authority influence, as well as anything excluded within these. Just because there were exclusions however, it did not mean Gloucestershire was not seeking to influence a change in these areas (page 3 of the report).
· The RAG rating used in the Action Progress 2021/22 to date was related to progress rather than risk, those showing in red were not being taken forward as originally hoped.
8.15 The Committee noted that 11 elected members had to date taken part in the Carbon Literacy Training provided via GCC. The team were looking at how this will be expanded in the future. There was also reference made to the Green Champions scheme for staff, an action was taken to explore how this resource could be made available to elected members as well.
ACTION: Pete Wiggins/Democratic Services
8.16 It was explained that the Salix Fund was a 50/50 fund set up between GCC and Salix Finance (who were a national body with Government funding, an offshoot of the Carbon Trust) to use as a loan scheme to help take carbon reduction initiatives forward. The Fund was currently aimed at projects focused on heat decarbonisation and was now open for use by parish and town councils so the team would be exploring how to best engage this information.
8.17 Noting the absence of reference specifically to methane from livestock and leaking landfill, a member queried whether work was being done to reduce these emission outlets. It was clarified that the report and performance measures refer to carbon as CO2e which puts all emissions on equal footing and then expressed as tonnes of carbon. For example, methane was around 28 times more powerful in terms of Global Warming potential than carbon so 1 tonne of methane would equate to 28 tonnes of carbon.
8.18 The team worked closely with colleagues in property on land and estate management, and there were really excellent examples of good practise which they were looking to highlight and share with others. Livestock also fell within one of the key themes for Climate Leadership Gloucestershire’s work, agriculture, and partners were working together across the county on simple changes such as what farmers fed the livestock etc. that could make a significant difference. In terms of landfill, the key change for GCC in this area was the creation of Javelin Park for the disposal of household waste.