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Agenda item

Public Questions and Petitions

To receive any questions or petitions from members of the public



Members of the public raised questions as follows:-




Rebecca Atkinson



(1)      To successfully introduce decarbonisation policies, “buy-in” from communities is very important.  Therefore, what wider evidence and consultation was gathered to support the decision to cancel Sheffield's Climate Citizens’ Assembly, given the availability of sophisticated video communication software?




In response, it was reported by Councillor Mark Jones (Cabinet Member for Environment, Streetscene and Climate Change) that the Sheffield Climate Citizens’ Assembly had not been cancelled, but arrangements regarding the establishment of the Assembly had been delayed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.  Funding had been agreed by the Council, at its meeting in March 2020, towards hosting a Citizens’ Assembly to drive forward the net-zero carbon ambitions of the Council.  Prior to March 2020, the City Council had approached the Green City Partnership Board to ask members of that Board to act as a steering committee to drive forward the process.  Given all the issues presented by the pandemic, it had been decided not to progress with the Citizens’ Assemblies, mainly in light of the timing and potential lack of inclusivity if it was switched to being held online/virtually.  Some preliminary work had been undertaken, and the Government had reported back on its National Climate Assembly.  The Council fully accepted that climate change was happening, and urgently needed addressing, and that having a Citizens’ Assembly would provide the Council with an opportunity to engage and promote the awareness of climate change.  Despite the lack of a Citizens’ Assembly, the Council had continued to undertake work to assess the issues regarding climate change, which had included commissioning reports and undertaking baseline and gap analysis.  A Citizens’ Assembly had to represent the views of everyone, and not simply the experts or those with a vested interest, and it had been considered that holding the Assembly remotely would present difficulties for all interested parties to participate.




(2)      Methane emissions make up a small, but significant portion of Sheffield's greenhouse gas emissions.  Are methane emissions increasing in Sheffield?  What are the key sources of methane emissions across the City, and how challenging are they to reduce from current levels?  Given the potency of methane emissions as a greenhouse gas, compared to carbon emissions, will there be no attempt to reduce them across the City?




In response, it was reported by Councillor Mark Jones that when the Commission was undertaken and taken forward by Arup and Ricardo (independent environmental consultants), methane emissions had to be included in the Baseline and Inventory Report.  Mark Jones (Sustainability and Climate Change Service Manager) added that it was accepted that methane was a potent greenhouse gas, which had a multiplying effect above and beyond carbon dioxide, and this was taken into account in the calculations.  The subsequent work had focussed on carbon emissions, as methane emissions account for less than 8% of the city’s greenhouse gasses emissions. The wider engagement would explore how other action could help to reduce the emissions of these other gases, such as methane.




(3)      Is Sheffield on track to reduce emissions by 14% for 2020, in line with the Tyndall Report which states “a rapid programme of decarbonisation is required, commencing in 2020 and averaging 14% year on year reduction”?  What proportion of any reduction in emissions has come from reduced economic activity versus decarbonization in 2020 so far?  By the end of 2021, will Sheffield be on track to decarbonize to levels recommended by the Tyndall Centres report, given current progress and accounting for any temporary reduction in carbon emissions due to the Covid-19 pandemic?




In response, it was reported by Councillor Mark Jones that the figures which had been used in both the Tyndall Report, as well as the more recent Zero Carbon Commission had used data from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy national Local Authority emissions inventory (a Government database used for calculating the City’s carbon emissions).  This data was produced over 12 months in arrears, so the data for 2020 would not be received until next year. Mark Whitworth added that it should be noted that this was similar for all cities in the United Kingdom.  It should also be noted that, whilst there had been some reductions in carbon use during the pandemic, energy consumption had recently started to rise back up to pre-pandemic levels.  However, the City was still some way off achieving the rate of decarbonization required.  The Council would be looking to use better tools and adopt better modelling in order to address some of the actions required to tackle climate change.  It had been acknowledged that the Council needed to be clear and honest with the public on these important issues, and it was believed that the report now submitted made this clear, mainly in terms of indicating that, whilst progress had been made, it was clearly not enough, and much more work was required.




Rachel Hand




Will the Overview and Scrutiny Management Committee commit to adopting the recommendations of the report?  In particular, will they support the establishment of a cross-party climate change and sustainability committee, and the creation of a properly resourced team of sustainability officers, to both ensure and demonstrate that the Council is responding to the climate crisis in a sufficient and timely manner?




In response, it was hoped that the Committee would agree the recommendations in the report.  In the light of the seriousness of the situation, and the need to move quickly on the issues regarding climate change, the discussions regarding the necessary resources required will be at the forefront of the discussions on the Council's budget for 2021/22.  It was hoped that a committee comprising cross-party membership could be established to look at all aspects as to how the Council could work in a more sustainable and environmentally-friendly manner.




Jenny Carpenter (Read out by John Turner (Democratic Services))




Does the Committee recognise the need for both Members and officers to be trained in carbon literacy if the climate emergency is to be tackled in a timely and thorough-going manner?




In response, whilst Members of the Committee did not necessarily have a detailed knowledge of all the issues regarding climate change, they had a reasonable level of understanding. Members were fully aware of the serious nature of the damage being caused.




Lindy Stone (Read out by John Turner (Democratic Services))




How can the Overview and Scrutiny Management Committee be assured that a properly resourced team of sustainability officers will be created to take forward the necessary work?




In response, the Council will be giving serious thought to tackling the issues of climate change when setting its 2021/22 budget.  There is appetite and will on the part of all Councillors to tackle climate change.  Although there were likely to be issues in terms of a budget deficit, all options in terms of resourcing the work required would be considered, including the possibility of some existing officers devoting a set amount of time each week to work specifically on sustainability projects.  There were a number of large businesses and organisations in the City, which could be approached in terms of either providing resources for the Council or undertaking their own initiatives to combat climate change.