Representatives from a committee that advises the government on climate change have visited County Durham.
The chairman and chief executive of the independent Climate Change Committee (CCC) found out how Durham County Council is working towards its net zero carbon target for the area.
The committee is undertaking a tour of the UK to better understand the challenges and opportunities of delivering the nationwide target of net zero emissions by 2050.
The CCC is eager to understand the key delivery challenges and opportunities in order to advise the government on how to reduce emissions and adapt to climate change.
Committee chairman Lord Deben, chief executive Chris Stark, and others visited the council’s Morrison Busty depot, near Annfield Plain, which is currently undergoing retrofit works to decarbonise the site.
The project includes the creation of a solar farm as well as charging points and battery storage.
Funding of £5m from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) is being used to carry out the major refit, while the council has also committed an additional £3.3m from its Invest to Save fund.
The scheme, along with other projects in the county, supports the pledge set out in the council’s Climate Emergency Action Plan to reduce carbon emissions and become a carbon neutral county by 2050.
Lord Deben said: “It is great to be in County Durham as we seek to learn more about delivering a fair net zero for the UK across regions, local authorities and in communities.
“To reach net zero, the work of Durham County Council alongside the actions of local people and businesses is key.
“What we hear from these conversations will help to inform our advice to the UK Government, due to be published in June.”
Lord Deben and other committee members were accompanied by Durham County Council’s Cabinet member for neighbourhoods and climate change, Cllr Mark Wilkes and Corporate Director for Neighbourhoods and Climate Change, Alan Patrickson.
The committee also visited Craghead, close to Stanley, where homes in former mining terraces are being retrofitted with energy efficient features and regenerated as part of another ERDF-funded scheme.
The visit finished with the group meeting representatives from small and medium-sized businesses which have been supported by the council’s Business Energy Efficiency Project (BEEP), which is also ERDF-funded.
Members also spoke to staff from firms who have taken advantage of the Try Before You Buy scheme, which gives businesses the chance to borrow an electric van for up to three weeks to help them make the decision about switching to electric vehicles.
Cllr Wilkes said: “It’s been fantastic to have the committee visit County Durham and for them to see first-hand the great work that is going on in our area to achieve the net zero target.
“Significantly reducing our carbon footprint is one of our top priorities, and we know that we need to do everything we can to contribute as much as possible to improving the situation both now and for future generations.
“That is why we have so many different projects going on across the county, whether that be turning our Morrison Busty depot into a low-carbon facility, retrofitting residents’ homes to make them more energy efficient, or helping businesses go green.”
The CCC is an independent, statutory body established under the Climate Change Act 2008.
Its purpose is to advise the UK and devolved governments on emissions targets and report to Parliament on progress made in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and adapting to the impacts of climate change.
The government’s Net Zero Strategy was published in late 2020 and the CCC is currently scrutinising progress.
As part of this work, the committee is looking to understand the key delivery challenges and opportunities across the UK so they can be reflected in advice to government.