One year on Cop26

Wednesday, 19 October, 2022

One year ago we held our own version of the COP climate conference to work out what can be doneto limit our impact on the environment in this corner of the world.

Our event in Alton mirrored the COP26 held in Glasgow and was fantastic - well-attended and full of grand ideas, innovations and possibilities.

Of course, what really makes an event like that a success is the lasting impact it has on our behaviours and the real-life changes it leads to.

Without action then climate conferences, whether local or international affairs, are little more than talking shopsadding morehot air toan alreadywarming world.

COP27 will be held in Egypt next month and the world will be watching. If the debates do not lead to deedsit will be for nothing.

In the 12 months since COP26 wehave been busy looking at our own environmental performance. We have made some huge strides and I am incredibly proud of some of the progress we have made.

Is it enough? No, of course not. We cannot be satisfied. There will always be more to do and as time goes by the sense of urgency increases.

I will share with you a few of the important steps we have taken that will have a significant impact on our carbon emissions.

We have set up a ‘Green Team’ of officers tomake sure that every major department in the council, from planning to property, is fully focussed on sustainability.As you may have read in my last column, our next Local Plan is shaping up to being our greenest ever.

Moving headquarters, to an enhanced new premises, will cut 74 per cent of the carbon that currently leaks out ofour creakyHQ at Penns Place.

These are huge steps forward but it’s not just our own house we need to get in order. We need to help our residents’ homes too and over the last year we have directed around £765,000 to households looking to install insulation, solar panels and all kinds of energy-saving measures. Thesenot only cut families’carbon emissions but, crucially during this cost-of-living crisis, reduce their fuel bills too.

These are a taste of what we have been up to. I don’t want to use this column to list all the measures my council has taken in the last year to address its own environmental performance. That can be found easily enough on our website.Nor do I want to seem self-congratulatory or complacent.

Yes, we are taking action, but it is important to admitthe reality that we all have a long way to go to meet our national targets of net zero by 2050.

We are taking our responsibilities seriously, and we will be looking to the international community to do likewise when it meets for COP27 in Sharm el-Sheik in November.

The world will be watching what our global leaders say there - but we know it is only action that really makes the difference.