A new set of actions has been agreed by Liberal Democrat South Lakeland District Council (SLDC) in its efforts to tackle climate change and biodiversity loss. The council held another series of climate change ‘conversations’ during the summer, inviting residents to have their say on how SLDC can continue its work to address climate change issues. These meetings – held in Kendal, Ulverston, Grange-over-Sands, Windermere and Kirkby Lonsdale – followed on from a similar round of public meetings in 2018, from which the council developed its first climate change ‘action plan’.
The round of climate change conversations this year also canvassed ideas how to address issues around biodiversity loss. An updated action plan has now been produced reflecting the ideas and suggestions that came forward. The action plan has been circulated to everyone who attended the meetings in July, outlining the council’s commitments to work with others and take practical steps as an organisation to address issues around climate change and biodiversity loss.
The council will:
· Examine how the importance of a low carbon footprint is reflected in procurement conditions
· Work with the county council to agree a date for zero carbon target
· Work with supermarkets and other businesses to discuss how carbon footprints can be reduced
· Encourage employees to use sustainable transport
· Continue to work with the county on additional cycle routes and safe routes to school.
· Review ways in which it can help businesses and institutions finance sustainable measures, eg. solar panels or hydroelectric schemes
· Meet with developers to discuss sustainable options on developments
· Hold further climate conversations
· Investigate ways to discourage vehicle idling
· Review how to advertise climate change actions on our vehicles and bins
· Partner with parish councils to develop climate change policies
· Run a communications campaign to include a slogan, improved website content, case studies, information, suggestions box and tips on how individuals can help
· Meet with the National Parks, Farmers Unions, Natural England, National Trust etc. to discuss how we can collaborate on climate change actions
· Organise additional business meetings on sustainability
· Investigate enhanced ways to ensure access to ‘Tetra Pack’ recycling and plastic film recycling
· Designate locations for wildflower meadows and reduced verge cutting
· Promote schemes and programmes that reduce carbon footprint (for example Simply Repair, Food Banks and Peoples Café)
· Review its energy provider
· Coordinate closely with other councils on sustainability issues
· Promote energy efficiency in homes including low energy light bulbs
· Propose to recruit additional resources to progress these initiatives
· Require sustainability plans for festivals it supports
· Work with the Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) on potential business eco-friendly activity
· Promote the ‘Cold to Cosy’ scheme – free energy advice and installation of energy saving improvements for applicable residents
In addition, the council has said it is keen to work with community groups to:
· Finance a citizens’ Jury
· Promote pollinator projects
· Enhance allotment biodiversity
· Encourage best practices with supermarkets
· Develop community compost schemes
· Initiate rural wheels schemes
· Promote electric bikes
· Educate residents and developers on how to promote bird habitat
· Contact and influence national policy makers
· Review engagement with schools
In the past year SLDC has already made great strides in its climate change work.
It became the first council in Cumbria to declare a climate emergency, has passed a biodiversity motion and has adopted a policy outlining how it aims to tackle climate change.
Other initiatives have included funding a zero carbon project in Ambleside, writing to government to seek a higher level of sustainability on house building, approving the installation of solar panels on more council buildings, agreeing an enhanced scheme of tree planting and implementing the ‘Fill-up’ scheme – which offers free water refills at council offices and participating businesses to cut down on use of single-use plastic water bottles.
Councillor Dyan Jones, SLDC’s portfolio holder for Climate Emergency and Localism, said: “By working with communities, businesses and local groups we are committed to finding ways to reduce the impact of climate change and biodiversity loss, which are likely to be the biggest challenges of our lifetime.
“These are serious issues that require serious attention. At SLDC we have taken a lead in making this a priority.
“We have a Green Team of designated officers working to identify how the council can make more energy efficiencies, whilst looking at ways of supporting communities to reduce energy and help protect the environment, and this policy is a further recognition that we as a council take this issue very seriously.
“We have been working hard to implement actions from our first round of meetings last year and have been looking at what we can do further, adding to our action plan.
“Many suggestions demand urgent action by our MPs and we will be writing to government ministers to influence changes to current laws relating to planning and building regulations, and to lobby to provide small, local authorities like ours greater resources to tackle and build resilience to climate change.
“Local action and community groups can play an important role too, by supporting and working together to promote and develop some of the ideas with communities across the district.
“We are responding and acting on many of the suggestions, embedding sustainable methods of thinking and working; ‘thinking globally, acting locally’ in all we do, using our influence, working collaboratively with partners, and recognising that a joined-up, strategic approach is vital in our response to climate change.’’