Crawley council ‘needs money from government to deliver on climate emergency pledges’

The government is going to have to ‘dosh out some lolly’ if local authorities are to deliver on their climate emergency pledges, a Crawley councillor has said.

Crawley retrofit installation
Crawley retrofit installation

During a meeting on Wednesday (November 24), the borough council’s cabinet approved in principle its overall Climate Emergency Action Plan to 2030 and a programme of work for 2022/23.

The council declared a climate emergency in July 2019 and made a commitment to reduce its carbon emissions by at least 45 per cent by 2030 and to zero by 2050.

While all seems to be going well with the action plan, Chris Mullins, cabinet member for wellbeing, called on the government to step up and help councils up and down the country.

He said: “A lot of what we need to do is going to have to be driven by government. What we’ve got here is a town initiative going forward which we want to build on.

“The details may change as we go on –  if the government is as committed as Boris seems to be, then he’s going to have to dosh out some lolly to the towns to get it done.

“We can do anything that he wants us to do – putting charging [points] in and insulating houses – all of that work can be done but it can’t be done without money.

“It’s all going to cost.”

Calling on the government to meet with council leaders and provide ‘direction, strategy and financial back-up’, he added: “That’s the only way it’s going to go forward, otherwise COP-26 is going to amount to a cop-out.”

Among the work laid out in the action plan for 2022/23 is an audit of council-owned buildings which have the highest energy consumption, such as the Hawth and K2 leisure centre.

The audits would work out the scale of carbon reduction which is achievable and the cost of doing so.

There are also plans to reduce energy use through the roll-out of modern laptops and by cutting hardware use by moving servers to the cloud.

Conservative leader Duncan Crow said his group was ‘very supportive’ of the work to become net zero but wondered if the overall strategy was ‘a little bit timid in terms of the ambition’.

He pointed out that West Sussex County Council aimed to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2030.

While not wanting to delay the action plan, Mr Crow asked if the wording could be amended ‘referencing dates we would like to work to if at all possible’.

His suggestion, though, was not taken forward, with Michael Jones, cabinet member for public protection & community engagement, declaring: “Plucking a date out of the air and not doing what’s needed to make it happen would be doing everyone a great disservice.”

After the meeting, Gurinder Jhans, cabinet member for environmental services and sustainability, said: “This is arguably the most important piece of work the council is undertaking. The plan is a far-reaching and comprehensive roadmap to help us transition to net zero. It touches on everything from reducing our use of fossil fuels and investing in renewables, to enhancing and protecting our natural environment.

“Our targets are the very minimum and our ambition is to reach net zero as quickly as possible. As a council we have a responsibility to lead by example in driving down our own carbon emissions and encouraging others to join us on this journey.

“Achieving our targets will mean changes to the way we live and work in Crawley, but by working together with residents, community groups and businesses, we can all make a big difference to help create a healthier, cleaner and greener planet now and for future generations.”

The action plan covers all council service areas focusing on:

• Reducing energy used in buildings through energy efficiency retrofits

• Investing in renewables to support the shift from fossil fuels to clean energy.

• Transitioning to low carbon modes of travel

• Improving green spaces for people and nature

Most of the council’s carbon emissions come from what it buys for construction projects and for goods and services. By working with its suppliers, Crawley Borough Council can influence more widely to reduce carbon emissions.

Parts of the plan are already underway. For example, the council’s Crawley Homes division is part of the NetZero Collective to retrofit homes, helping them become warmer and cheaper with lower energy bills for their tenants.

A key next step will be inviting residents and businesses to join the council in its ‘Action to Zero’.

For more information visit the council’s website