Following their declaration of a climate emergency in July 2019, Surrey County Council (SCC) has today approved Surrey’s Climate Change Strategy, a collective approach for how the County can be net zero carbon by 2050.
The strategy was developed by Surrey’s 12 local authorities and is the result of a shared ambition across the county council and the districts and boroughs, for Surrey’s Greener Future – one where residents can live in clean, safe and green communities and embrace their environmental responsibilities. To deliver on Surrey’s ambitions, the county’s current rate of carbon consumption would have to decrease significantly.
Tim Oliver, Leader of Surrey County Council said, “We must all do our part in the fight against climate change and the scale of our ambitions must reflect the scale of the challenge. But for real change and definitive action to meet our targets, we need to work in a coordinated national effort with support and leadership from the government. Our response will not only define our generation but shape and make way for a new generation who will build on the steps we take today. Together, we can ensure Surrey is cleaner, greener and more resilient, now and into the future”
The strategy is broken down into eight key sectors; Organisation Emissions, Transport and Air Quality, Energy Generation, Housing and Planning, Buildings and Infrastructure, Waste, Resources and Circular Economy, Land Use and Food Systems, Industry and Economy. Each sector includes county-wide CO2e emissions reduction targets, three strategic priorities and actions to achieve them.
To provide robust CO2e targets and a zero carbon pathway, SCC commissioned researchers at Leeds University, who are widely recognised as leaders in this agenda. Professor Andy Gouldson from the University of Leeds said, “This strategy sets out to deliver meaningful action on climate change in the coming years. Evidence clearly shows that climate action can help Surrey to tackle congestion, improve air quality, enhance the health and wellbeing of residents, stimulate employment, provide better homes and tackle inequality. Instead of thinking why would we act, Surrey should be thinking why wouldn’t we.”
The strategic priorities and actions within the strategy were developed by Surrey’s local authorities, by engaging with academic partners, residents, businesses, schools and emergency services through workshops, focus groups, resident panels, and commissioning groups.
Within Surrey, transport is responsible for 46% of emissions, with the county carrying almost twice as much traffic than average for South East England. The transport sector is identified in the strategy as the biggest and most key area for Surrey to tackle.
Housing in the county accounts for 28% of emissions county-wide and the target for this sector is to achieve a 66% reduction by 2035. The priorities in this area involve advising, supporting and empowering residents to take action in their own homes and develop a better understanding around energy efficiency and their carbon footprint.
The role of land and green infrastructure is also identified in the strategy as having significant potential to strengthen resilience to and help tackle climate change, as well as improve air quality. SCC has committed to facilitate planting 1.2 million trees county-wide and Surrey’s New Tree Strategy, also approved today, will provide a framework to help deliver on this.
The New Tree Strategy details the many benefits to planting trees, including significant potential to capture carbon emissions, reducing the risk of flooding, enhancing biodiversity, and filtering noise and air pollution, as well as improvements to our mental health and wellbeing.
Mike Goodman, Cabinet Member for Environment and Waste said: “Trees play a fundamental role in helping to tackle climate change. By planting them and nurturing their growth we can capture and store carbon emissions and protect our environment for future generations. We need to bring the countryside back to residents and Surrey County Council’s New Tree Strategy will pave the way. The trees we plant today are the ones our children and grandchildren will be playing under in years to come.”
Surrey is home to rare wildlife and vast amounts of chalkland, grassland and woodlands which needs protecting. The importance of these habitats is highlighted in the New Tree Strategy which includes commitments to these areas, where trees will not be planted, and the land will instead be left to mature and flourish.
The impact of COVID-19 is placing communities around the world in unprecedented situations, with more people staying at home, and travelling less following Government advice on social distancing. However, their response and resilience has demonstrated the power of collective action, with unintended benefits including reported significant drops in air pollution from China to Italy. The world and its communities have had to adapt. We must take time reflect on how we may recover while maintaining some of the benefits of the changes to our lifestyles including reductions in emissions, through adopting more sustainable modes of transport and by travelling less.
Collectively, we must all do what we can to help tackle climate change and for Surrey to achieve the goal of net zero carbon by 2050, we must act today. To read the full Climate Change Strategy and action plan, and the New Tree Strategy visit the Surrey County Council website.