The ten-year Climate Change Strategy sets out how the local authority will adapt to the challenges of climate change through five commitments:
• Reducing carbon emissions,
• Increasing resilience to a changing climate,
• Sourcing and using resources responsibly,
• Supporting and growing the green economy,
• and embedding these commitments into decision making.
The county council will apply these five key commitments when planning and delivering services, and shaping future policy and operations, so that its ambitions on climate change can be integrated across the whole organisation.
The strategy acknowledges and sets out how the county council can lead by example, how it can enable others to do things differently, and inspire others to work together.
The strategy considers learning from the Covid-19 pandemic where organisations and people have had to adapt to changes, and adopt new behaviours and ways of working if needed. The strategy aims to build on this resilience and adaptability through community engagement.
Deborah Urquhart, cabinet member for the environment, said: “We recognise the need for urgency on this issue, and know that now, as never before, we have an opportunity to change the way we operate with climate change at the heart of the decisions we take for our organisation and our communities.
“With this in mind, we have accelerated the timeline for this strategy so that we can align and integrate the commitments and use this unmissable opportunity presented by the recovery planning from COVID-19.”
The county council has delivered a number of environmental projects in recent years, including significant investments in renewable energy.
It opened Tangmere solar farm in 2015 and developed the country’s first publicly owned ‘subsidy free’ solar farm at Westhampnett three years later, which has battery storage on site to store energy at peak times and feed the grid when there is an increased demand.
Solar panels have also been installed at more than 80 schools to reduce their energy bills, and the council is behind Your Energy Sussex, a not-for-profit local energy supplier which provides 100% per cent renewable energy to residents.
The county council already generates more renewable electricity than it consumes through its core operations, excluding schools and street lighting, and has further ambitious plans to increase its low carbon energy generation and storage in the years ahead.
Mrs Urquhart added: “The commitments in our strategy are in many ways not new, but build on our efforts to reduce our impact on the environment. These include, for example, working hard to reduce our carbon emissions (now reduced by 52 per cent since 2010/11) and investing in significant renewable energy.
“With our vision for the county that local communities are independent, strong and vibrant, I hope communities across West Sussex will join us and look for ways they too can reduce their carbon emissions and become more climate resilient.”
The development of the Climate Change Strategy 2020-2030 was overseen by a Climate Change Advisory Group, formed at the request of Mrs Urquhart last year. The group involved members of all political parties, the West Sussex Youth Cabinet and representatives from the South East Climate Alliance.
The county council will now set out a delivery plan, showing the actions for each of the 5 commitments in the strategy, and identify ways to engage further with our communities.
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