Ambitious plans to invest up to £50m in tackling climate change through more than 100 projects in County Durham will be discussed by councillors next week.
The cash, drawn from grants and invest-to-save schemes, will also include £3m to be spent over the next two years, if Durham County Council’s cabinet approves the proposal when it meets on Wednesday, February 12.
The council is also proposing increasing targets for carbon reduction as part of the two-year-plan, which includes an investment of £13.2m to reduce the council’s own carbon emissions.
The authority has developed the proposals following a consultation last year, which received more than 1,000 responses from residents, community groups, schools, businesses and council staff about their priorities for reducing carbon emissions.
Cllr Carl Marshall, cabinet member for economic regeneration, said: “The council has an excellent track record for delivering reductions in carbon emissions. Between 2008/9 and 2018/19, we have managed to reduce CO2 levels by just under 47% through a programme that has included building retrofits, renewable energy schemes and lower energy streetlights.
“However, more still needs to be done and this action plan demonstrates exactly how, working with the community, we plan to do it, with wide-ranging projects that will result in a reduction not just in the council’s carbon emissions but also emissions across the county.”
The plan outlines a wide range of initiatives to tackle council emissions, including:
• The development of a scheme to harness heat from minewater as a form of renewable energy
• A major programme of energy efficiency improvements across council buildings, including schools.
• Greater use of electric and low emission vehicles across the council’s fleet.
• Conversion of an additional 17,000 streetlights using energy-saving LEDs.
• Installation of solar panels in addition to already planned energy efficiency measures at the council’s new HQ – this would be subject to planning permission.
The carbon-costed plan also proposes that the council sets an even more ambitious target for reducing its own emissions, with the original 60% reduction by 2030 increased to 80%.
Similarly, a countywide reduction of 60% by 2020 is proposed rather than the current target of 55%. This would be achieved by schemes including:
• A substantial programme to plant more than 358,000 new trees.
• Extension of the Business Energy Efficiency Project (BEEP), which has already helped 240 small firms save 15,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions.
• Setting up of a £500,000 Community Investment Fund to assist community groups in reducing their carbon impact through energy efficiency and renewables.
Cllr John Clare, the council’s climate change champion, said: “The large volume of responses received during the consultation indicates a strong interest in climate change.
“I have read all of the responses and it has been good to see not only that people are overwhelmingly behind our proposals, but that many are already taking action themselves to reduce the carbon footprint of their homes, businesses and neighbourhoods.
“Clearly, the ambitious targets we have set cannot be achieved by the council alone, so it is extremely important that we work closely with our partners and the public to achieve, and hopefully, exceed our targets.”