North Yorkshire is supporting a national network launched today (24 June) to make the voice of the countryside heard in the climate change debate.
The Countryside Climate Network is a cross-party group of 21 councils from all regions of England. In a letter published by the group today, it warns that “rural communities are at the frontline of climate changes” and that “the countryside offers far more than a place to plant millions of trees to offset carbon emissions.”
Last year, North Yorkshire County Council committed to produce its own carbon reduction plan with the ambitions of beating the Government’s goal of 2050 and to aspire to achieve net carbon neutrality by as close as possible to 2030.
County Council Leader Cllr Carl Les said: “We are lucky to call North Yorkshire home and the work we have begun will help us understand where we are and what more we can do to deliver a robust structure to protect our environment in a more formal way.
“We have committed to strive towards an ambitious target for carbon neutrality. We are committed to actions, not just words.”
For example, the authority has reduced significantly its street lighting energy consumption and carbon emissions thanks to a part-night street lighting programme that saw more than half of its 50,400 lights switched off between midnight and 5am and by investing about £10m in a programme to replace all its standard sodium street lights with LED technology. This has seen an annual reduction of more than 4,000 tonnes in the council’s carbon footprint and savings of about £1.4m a year.
Cllr Les added: “As an authority, we are acting to reduce our CO2 emissions and water consumption and to minimise waste, for example through Allerton Waste Recovery Plant and our Rotters composting initiative. We have taken a clear stance to protect North Yorkshire in our Joint Minerals and Waste Plan, to encourage sustainable economic growth and to consider environmental and social impact in our policy and procurement.
“Now, as an active member of the Countryside Climate Network, we can and will do more.”
In an article also published today, the chair of the Countryside Climate Network, Cllr Steve Count, leader of Cambridgeshire County Council, said: “We’re frustrated that climate solutions and green recovery packages haven’t found the right balance, largely missing the rural voice.
“It can be hard to meet our sustainable ambitions when urban areas have no need to fund essential bus services to remote communities or invest in broadband because the market doesn’t reach isolated areas. These examples of typical rural disadvantages add up, combined with a funding gap in rural areas twice that of our urban counterparts, means our stretched resources are diminished, making the challenge of funding sustainable solutions even harder.”
The new network has been established by UK100, a network of local leaders that campaigns on climate change. The 21 councils represent 14.3 million people, a quarter of the population and two fifths of England by area.
Polly Billington, Director of UK100, said: “Climate change affects every area and every person, and rural towns and villages can be more vulnerable to the impacts, such as extreme weather. Countryside councils are well placed to tackle climate change and meet the needs and ambitions of their communities for economic recovery and better health and wellbeing, with innovative solutions along with the democratic legitimacy to deliver lasting change.”