New council alliance sets out to combat climate change

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Combating climate change in rural settings is the focus for the new Countryside Climate Network.

“The countryside offers far more than a place to plant millions of trees to offset carbon emissions from elsewhere.” This is according to an open letter sent by the new Countryside Climate Network.

It goes on to state that “Rural communities have always been a great source of national progress and innovation.”

The Countryside Climate Network is a new cross-party group of 21 councils across England, including Shropshire Council. It was established by UK100, a network of local government leaders.

It has written an open letter in which it states that “Our goal is to ensure that the voice of rural knowledge and experience on climate action is listened to in Westminster.”

The group is chaired by Councillor Steve Count, Cambridgeshire County Council Leader, who wants to get the balance right: “We’re frustrated that climate solutions and green recovery packages haven’t found the right balance, largely missing the rural voice.”

He adds: “…rural communities face unfair barriers in trying to decarbonise – it is harder to attract funding for projects which don’t fit traditional cost benefit analyses, which favour urban concentrations yet may have less overall carbon reduction impact.”

The Countryside Climate Network’s open letter begins: “Our rural communities are at the frontline of feeling the effects of climate change.”

According to UK100, rural challenges include it being harder for people from rural communities to switch to more sustainable transport, the need to switch to renewable heating and financially disadvantaged county councils.

Shropshire’s contribution to climate change and the fight against it

Agriculture is an important part of Shropshire, but the Committee on Climate Change reports that, in 2017, land use, including agriculture, forestry and peatland, accounted for 12% of the UK’s overall greenhouse gas emissions.

According to Shropshire Council, Shropshire has the fifth largest amount of installed renewable energy generation capacity in the UK and produces 20% of the renewable energy across the whole of the West Midlands, which it is eager to expand. For example, Greenacres Farm in Baschurch had a 50kW solar array installed last year.

Councillor Dean Carroll, Adult Social Care, Public Health and Climate Change Cabinet Member, has said “…we have reduced our carbon output by 25% since 2013 and have embedded climate action in all council decisions. We are working incredibly hard to develop and deliver projects that will reduce our carbon output and energy consumption.”

Greenhouse gas

Under the (amended last year) Climate Change Act 2008, the UK government has a duty to ensure that the “net UK carbon account” is at least 100% lower than the UK’s carbon dioxide and other targeted greenhouse gas emissions in 1990 in 2050. Keeping the increase in the global average temperature “well below 2°C” and “pursuing efforts” to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels is what the UK is also bound to do by the 2015 Paris Agreement.

The Committee on Climate Change reported last year that if other leading countries replicated the UK’s greenhouse gas target, all countries replicated the UK’s carbon dioxide target and with ambitious near-term reductions in emissions, there is a more than 50% chance of limiting the global temperature increase to 1.5°C. UK greenhouse gas emissions were 45.2% lower than their 1990 levels in 2019, according to provisional UK government estimates.

“In addition, we are actively exploring opportunities to ‘build back better’ and capitalise on the recent environmental improvements we have seen locally and internationally to enable us to achieve our ambition of being carbon net zero by 2030 at the latest”, Councillor Carroll added.

The impact of the Countryside Climate Network, including in achieving these targets, remains to be seen.

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Rowan Hall
Rowan contributes articles to Shropshire Live. A Law undergraduate who lives in the county. He is currently studying Global Law at Queen Mary University of London and has a particular interest in writing about local government.
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