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Date issued: 4 October 2019
Colchester has been ranked joint top performer in the Eastern Region and equal third most climate-friendly area in England and Wales, according to Friends of the Earth.
The green group assessed councils in different categories including renewable energy, public transport, lift-sharing, energy efficiency at home, waste recycling, and tree cover
Last July, Colchester Borough Council became one of the first local authorities in the region to declare a Climate Emergency. The move commits the council to a series of sweeping measures to avert environmental breakdown, including becoming carbon neutral by 2030 by, among other things, working with residents, businesses and neighbouring local authorities to develop community-based renewable energy projects that reduce carbon footprints and emissions.
The declaration of a climate emergency builds on previous council pledges, including the decision in June to establish a cross-party Conservation and Environmental Sustainability Task and Finish Group. Its remit, which acknowledges the climate emergency and need to translate key environmental aspirations into actions, is set to look at the conservation of natural habitats and biodiversity and encourage renewable energy generation and carbon footprint reduction across the borough.
The Leader of Colchester Borough Council, Cllr Mark Cory, said: “I’m delighted, but not surprised, that Colchester ranks so close to the top of the Friends of the Earth league table.
“It reflects extremely well on our efforts and aspirations to address concerns and issues across the environmental spectrum.
“The environment is our number-one priority. That is why we were one of the first in the region to declare a Climate Emergency. But we also recognise there is much more to do. We mean it when we say it, and we’re acting on it. That’s why we set up the Task and Finish Group.
“This council can be rightly proud of its environmental record, through its efforts to reduce carbon emissions, minimise waste, improve air quality and develop sustainable and renewable sources of energy that are helping communities become more resilient to climate change.”
Past efforts to reduce the environmental impact of its activities and services and cut carbon emissions 40 per cent by 2020 were recognised in 2016 when the council won the Environmental Awareness category at the Essex Business Awards, beating competition from across the county.
That success was surpassed in July 2017, three years ahead of schedule, when the council achieved a 55 per cent cut in its carbon emissions compared to 2008, making it one of the leading carbon-cutting councils in the UK.
While the council remains fully committed in its efforts to reduce greenhouse emissions across the borough, its ambition goes way beyond just carbon reduction to also include environmental stewardship, air quality, biodiversity, conservation and leading on forward-thinking green initiatives such as the Northern Gateway Heat Network – the first of its kind in the country – and installing solar panels.
The council also continues to build on a wide range of initiatives, already being developed, to ensure a greener future. This includes a two-year project backed by £249,100 funding from the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) to tackle air quality issues in the borough. Working with residents, schools, and community groups, the project aims to raise awareness of air quality issues and encourage people to act.
A survey launched last month is expected to obtain clearer insights into what people currently know about air quality and its impact on health, encouraging changes in habits – like switching car engines off whilst stationary – that can dramatically cut pollution.
The council is also set to announce a massive tree-planting initiative in addition to its annual Trees for Years giveaway, which has already seen thousands of trees and shrubs planted across the borough.