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Council sets out further commitments towards the environment

Published February 03, 2021 11.07am

A North East council's commitment to tackling climate change will be strengthened by its senior Cabinet members this month with a pledge to address all its environmental impacts alongside its low carbon activities.

We have set out a statement of ambitions outlining how we will continue to work towards positive environmental change.

Cabinet will hear the full Environmental Statement when it meets on Wednesday, 10 February at 9.30am. Members of the public can view the meeting live at DCC on YouTube

Our climate plan

We have already received national recognition for our efforts to tackle environmental issues including carbon reduction, fly tipping, environmental cleanliness, waste management and horticulture.

Much of this success is due to a wide variety of strategies in place such as our Climate Change Emergency Action Plan, Single Use Plastics, Cycling and Walking Strategy, and Sustainable Procurement plans.

We have also made commitments to addressing climate change in our Local Plan and the County Durham Vision.

Reducing our carbon emissions

While we have made significant work towards addressing environmental concerns through these plans, we recognise that our greatest environmental challenge will be reducing our own carbon emissions and a reduction of emissions across the county.

After declaring a climate emergency in 2019, we announced our pledge to reduce carbon emissions from our operations by 80 per cent by 2030 and make County Durham carbon neutral by 2050.

To help meet this pledge and deliver beyond our climate policies, we have created a single, overarching Corporate Environmental Statement that will outline our commitments and co-ordinate our initiatives under one environmental purpose.

Environmental statement

On Wednesday, 10 February, Cabinet will hear the statement and our commitment to:

  • Take opportunities to improve environmental outcomes
  • Reduce the environmental impact of our operating methods and consumption of resources
  • Regularly monitor and continually improve our environmental performance
  • Ensure environmental impacts are understood within decision-making processes and practices
  • Take a lead role on critical issues such as climate change, single-use plastic reduction, and declines in biodiversity
  • Raise awareness of and encourage environmentally positive behaviours and best practice
  • Work with and support others to protect and improve our natural environment.

Monitoring our progress

Cabinet members will also be recommended to agree to introduce an Environmental Management System (EMS) to manage and record our progress.

It will include the introduction of a corporate Net Zero Carbon Board to drive the delivery of the statement along with the existing Climate Emergency Response Plan (CERP) and other key environmental commitments.

The EMS has been developed with the nationally recognised Investors in the Environment (IiE) to record, monitor, and improve all environmental aspects of organisational operations. In turn, we will achieve an auditable, externally verified accreditation of our progress.

By adopting this system, we will achieve a measurable demonstration of environmental performance.

Long-lasting benefit

Cllr Brian Stephens, our Cabinet member for neighbourhoods and local partnerships, said: "While we have already shown significant progress and success in meeting our climate pledge and addressing significant environmental concerns, it is important that we continue to strive for and maintain a high-quality environment across the county.

"As a council it is our responsibility to incorporate our environmental commitments into all organisational duties and core values. The introduction of an overarching statement will provide immediate and long-lasting benefit by reinforcing a unifying commitment to tackling climate change."