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Agenda item

Addressing the Climate Emergency - An Update on Progress

Report of the Executive Director, Place



The Committee received a report of the Executive Director, Place, on the progress made by the Council and its partners in connection with addressing the climate emergency and the Council’s stated ambition of becoming net-zero carbon by 2030.  The report set out details of the work undertaken, with the support of the Green City Partnership Board and other stakeholders in the City, in developing a comprehensive evidence base to underpin the City's approach to achieving net-zero carbon.  The report provided a summary of the work, together with details of some of the initial findings, as well as setting out the proposed next steps.




The report attached a number of related appendices, including (a) The Sheffield Greenhouse Gas Emissions Baseline Inventory Infographic and Report, (b) Sheffield Net-Zero Carbon Gap Analysis Infographic and Report, (c) Setting Climate Commitments for the City of Sheffield – Quantifying the Implications of the United Nations Paris Agreement for Sheffield – The Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research and (d) membership of the Green City Partnership Board.




In attendance for this item were Councillor Mark Jones (Cabinet Member for Environment, Streetscene and Climate Change), Mark Whitworth (Sustainability and Climate Change Service Manager) and Victoria Penman (Economic Policy Officer).




In addition to the report, the Committee received a presentation from Mark Whitworth.  Mr Whitworth reported that Sheffield had a strong record of accomplishment on sustainability, and referred to the excellent work undertaken by former Councillor Alf Meade, who had been instrumental in establishing Sheffield Heat and Power, with Sheffield being one of the first cities in the UK to develop an energy recovery facility.  More recently, the Council and its partner, Veolia, had been trialling electric refuse-collection vehicles.  Mr Whitworth  made reference to the numerous active and engaged businesses/organisations and individuals, who were already working to help the city towards achieving net-zero carbon.  He referred to the Paris Climate Agreement in 2015, the Green City Strategy adopted by the Council in 2018, and the report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 2018 - Global Warming of 1.5°C and the declarations of a climate change emergency by Full Council in 2019.  He reported on the impact already caused by global warming, the impacts of Covid-19 , as well as the potential positive changes, responses to the targets both nationally and globally, Sheffield's response, Sheffield's carbon budget, and the membership, aims and objectives of the Green City Partnership Board.  Mr Whitworth reported on the actions taken by Sheffield in response to climate change, the Zero Carbon Commission, baseline emissions in the City and details of the challenge ahead and what the City was likely to see in Sheffield in terms of action to reduce carbon emissions.  He concluded by referring to the wider opportunities and benefits of reducing carbon emissions, such as new jobs, warmer homes and healthier communities, and the next steps.




Members of the Committee raised questions, and the following responses were provided:-




·            It was acknowledged that climate change represented a major issue for all, and that some people would find it daunting.  Every effort would be made to help and guide people equally in terms of options they could take to do their own bit towards combatting climate change.  Community wealth building and the uplifting of every citizen in Sheffield was paramount.  One simple step people could take could be to support marketplaces in the City, with the aim of supporting local traders.




·            The Council was seeking funding from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) to enable grants to be allocated to small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to take up energy-efficient measures, such as installing energy-efficient lighting and/or heating.  In the longer term, the Council would explore what support could be provided through partner organisations, such as  the Sheffield Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Universities, and from the Government and the Sheffield City region (SCR).  Also, there was a need to build on the discussions held with local organisations, such as the Manor Castle Development Trust, in connection with providing the necessary help and advice to individuals, communities and businesses in terms of actions people could take to reduce their impact on the climate.  The Council and others in the city needed to start planning for future changes, such as the move from gas boilers to heat pumps, and to look at how this could be done in a fair, equitable and cost-effective manner.




·            The work to look at the City’s greenhouse gas emissions has focused on Scopes one and two, which comprised energy that has been consumed in Sheffield, but generated elsewhere in the country and/or resulting in emissions, such as the burning of gas (as well as direct emissions produced here, such as vehicle emissions).  This had been agreed as it was in line with the work undertaken on the carbon budget.  Where products had been made in other countries, and transported to Sheffield, the carbon budget would be attributed to either those countries or to shipping or aviation.  Shipping and aviation had a very large carbon budget apportioned to them.  The Council and the city needed to consider those consumption and product emissions from products produced elsewhere, but consumed or used in Sheffield.




·            It was acknowledged that a better public transport system was required in the City.




·            Climate change and carbon impacts ran through many of the Council’s considerations, and had been highlighted at all levels within the Council. The more the Council could highlight the issues of carbon literacy, the better.




·            The Council was very supportive of local energy, and had replied to the National Policy Review.  Councillor Mark Jones and Mark Whitworth had held discussions with the Northern Power Grid in connection with the move to more sustainable uses of power, such as the move to electric cars.




·            Low traffic neighbourhoods represented a major initiative towards reducing carbon emissions, and further work was required to make roads safer, and to develop more, and better, cycle lanes.




·            More work was required in connection with urban food growth and biodiversity, specifically looking at shortening our supply chains and having low carbon pastures on our upland farms.  There was a need to re-intensify our food production in some sectors, whereas, in other sectors, we could follow the Dutch model looking to establish polytunnels and hydroponic culturing of food within the urban environment.  At the UK Climate Assembly, discussions had been held in terms of promoting the health benefits of a plant-based diet and providing people with the opportunity of growing their own food.




·            Whilst the City’s heat and power system was efficient, the incinerator may not always power the district heat network, and the Council would need to look to introduce alternative sources of heating, such as heat pumps, and anaerobic digesters.  There was also a need to speak to local communities on such issues in terms of where the infrastructure for such alternative power sources could be located.




·            It was acknowledged that the Council needed an improved, more public-facing website as a method of increasing engagement with the public on issues regarding climate change.  




·            Climate View, a system recently developed in Sweden, and being piloted in Newcastle, enabled cities to develop a plan based around their existing baseline work, then break it down into smaller parts, which enabled cities to see how their actions would contribute towards carbon reduction.  It was deemed a very powerful tool, and one which Sheffield wished to look to using, as well as look at how it was working in other cities.




·            The electric refuse collection vehicles would be kept by the City Council and rolled out once the trial had been completed, and had been successful.




·            The Council was constantly in discussion with Viola in connection with how the waste incinerator could be repurposed going forward. As part of this work, the Council would take Government advice in terms of waste streams into account.




·            Work was ongoing to increase the number of rapid electric vehicle charging points in the City.  It was acknowledged that, given the expected demand, the Council needed to ensure that there were more charging points available across the City.  As part of the Connecting Cities work, the Council would not only be increasing the number of charging points, but also maintaining those existing points it was responsible for.




·            Climate change was key as part of the consultation on the Local Plan, particularly with regard to sustainability and ecological diversity regarding future housing developments.  More work was required on the concept of developing the 15 minute city, which aimed to ensure all residents were able to reach all key services and facilities within 15 minutes of their home, as well as ensuring that there were sufficient public transport options for people who needed, or chose, to travel longer distances.




·            The final report aimed to cover the compelling reasons and some of the wider benefits that these zero carbon approaches would bring, whether it be across housing, transport or how we worked with industry.  The report would also set out the actions needed, both as a Council and working with other organisations in the City.  There were two parts to the report - the City decarbonization, which related to the Council and other organisations in the City, and a specific report on what the Council needed to do in order to reach net-zero carbon in all its operations.  It was believed that one of the first actions required would be the retro-fitting of the Council’s housing stock, together with energy production.  It was likely that the final report would be ready for inspection by Members by early 2021.




·            Climate change would have an impact on people with disabilities, such as those with respiratory problems therefore, there was a role for the health providers to take the necessary steps to decarbonise their operations and supply chain.  It was understood that the Sheffield Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) had recently made a statement to this effect.  The CCG was represented on the Green City Partnership Board.




·            The Council already operated in line with its Ethical Procurement Policy which required, amongst other things, the invitation of tenders for significant projects from local businesses, which would help in terms of re-investing in the City’s local communities, as well as helping to shorten supply chains.  The suggestions made in terms of having a better connection to our food were fully supported.




·            Engagement with, and how we communicate the issues regarding climate change to, the public, was critical.  Rather than simply putting the evidence-base at the forefront, people needed to be asked what they wanted their city to look like going forward, as well as exploring how we can achieve carbon reductions together and the critical roles different groups, organisations and individuals could play.  The evidence base could help to underpin those conversations.  The city already had a Youth Cabinet, and it may be possible to establish a further Youth Cabinet with the intention of discussing issues regarding climate change.  This would provide an opportunity for young people to instruct and inform their elders in terms of what they wanted to see in the future.




·            Climate change was a golden thread which ran through all Council portfolios.  With regard to housing in the city, the vast majority was not Council owned, therefore there was a need for the Council, and its partners, to look at better initiatives going forward to ensure that such housing was retro-fitted and made future proof.




·            In terms of the works going forward, the methods of engagement and communication needed to be very different.  There was a need to find out how private homeowners could be influenced to undertake any relevant future proofing works to their properties, as well as the need to discuss the issues with registered landlords and other such organisations in an attempt to get them all involved.  The public needed to be provided with assurances that there was a clear plan for the City, whilst being mindful that people would be asked to do things and make changes, that they may not necessarily agree with.




RESOLVED: That the Committee:-




(a)      notes the contents of the report now submitted, together with the information now reported and the responses to the questions raised;




(b)      agrees that the Scrutiny Chairs support and challenge their wider Committees on climate change;




(c)      supports the roll-out of carbon and climate awareness programmes for members and officers to attend awareness sessions; and




(d)      requests (i) the Executive Director, Place, to submit the Final Report addressing the climate emergency, as now mentioned to its meeting to be held on 28th January 2021, with responses to the issues raised at this meeting, setting out proposals in terms of future action and urgent response to the climate emergency in Sheffield, and the roles and responsibilities of the proposed cross-party Climate Change and Sustainability Committee and (ii) that this Committee takes on the role of the cross-party Climate Change and Sustainability Committee.



Supporting documents: