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Council cuts carbon emissions

Test Valley Borough Council has slashed its paper consumption, is driving down its energy use and is continuing to increase its fleet of electric vehicles in a bid to become carbon-neutral.

The authority declared a climate emergency in September 2019 and since then it has been pushing forward plans to dramatically cut its carbon emissions.

Members of various political parties came together to help produce a Climate Emergency Action Plan, which was approved by the council in June 2020. The authority’s overview and scrutiny committee (OSCOM) will receive an update on progress every six months.

Figures included in an OSCOM update in September 2020 showed that between October 2019 and July 2020 the council reduced the number of pages printed by around 100,000, halving the number of trees consumed and hammering down costs by more than half a million pounds.

The authority has also ordered three refuse collection vehicles with electrically operated bin lifts, which are each expected to save around 2,000kg of carbon dioxide per year.

In addition, it is reviewing the potential for renewable and low carbon energy sources in the borough to help inform future planning policies. The council has also now switched to an electricity tariff that uses renewable energy, meaning that it will use electricity generated from non-fossil fuel sources.

The update also considered the impact of Covid restrictions on the council’s progress against the action plan, observing that the pandemic has meant that quicker progress has been made on certain aspects, including the use of video conferencing and live streaming council meetings to the public.

The lockdown also highlighted the importance of providing good quality open spaces to support people’s physical and mental wellbeing. The council is continuing to work on improving the biodiversity across the borough and has also recently launched a Green Spaces Strategy consultation to hear from residents on how best the environment can be protected and enhanced between now and 2030.

Environmental Portfolio Holder, Councillor Alison Johnston, said: “We were already driving forward our climate emergency plans when coronavirus hit. Covid-19 has, understandably, taken the lion’s share of the news coverage over the past few months. But the climate emergency is still very much at the forefront of our minds and green recovery will continue to be at the core of our response to the pandemic. Indeed, the impact of lockdown has accelerated a move towards more energy efficient ways of working.

“We remain keen to explore all options to help reduce our carbon footprint, with a view to achieving carbon neutrality as quickly as possible and certainly before the government target of 2050.

“Some of the changes we implement will have a relatively small impact but this is about seeking to reduce our CO2 emissions wherever we are able to do so.”

Residents and businesses continue to play their part, with an ever-increasing number of council tax bills and business rate bills now issued electronically. The council continues to encourage residents to sign up to its e-billing service to help reduce the amount of paper that is used.

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