Durham County 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.
The local authority has set out a statement of ambitions outlining how it will continue to work towards positive environmental change.
The council has already received national recognition for its 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 its Climate Change Emergency Action Plan, Single Use Plastics, Cycling and Walking Strategy, and Sustainable Procurement plans.
It has also made commitments to addressing climate change in its Local Plan and the County Durham Vision.
While it has made significant work towards addressing environmental concerns through these plans, the council recognises that its greatest environmental challenge will be reducing its own carbon emissions and a reduction of emissions across the county.
After declaring a climate emergency in 2019, the council announced its pledge to reduce carbon emissions from its operations by 80 per cent by 2030 and make County Durham carbon neutral by 2050.
To help meet this pledge and deliver beyond its climate policies, the council has created a single, overarching Corporate Environmental Statement that will outline its commitments and co-ordinate its initiatives under one environmental purpose.
On Wednesday, February 10, cabinet will hear the statement and the council’s commitment to:
• Take opportunities to improve environmental outcomes
• Reduce the environmental impact of its operating methods and consumption of resources
• Regularly monitor and continually improve its 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.
Cabinet members will also be recommended to agree to introduce an Environmental Management System (EMS) to manage and record the council’s 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, the council will achieve an auditable, externally verified accreditation of its progress.
By adopting this system, the council will achieve a measurable demonstration of environmental performance.
Cllr Brian Stephens, Durham County Council’s 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.”
Cabinet will hear the full Environmental Statement when it meets on Wednesday, February 10, from 9.30am.