6 October 2021 - Petersfield Climate Action Network (PeCAN) is pleased to have taken part in preparations for the Community COP East Hants, which will be hosted this Friday in Alton by Damian Hinds MP and East Hampshire District Council.
PeCAN representatives participated in three Action Groups over the summer, alongside colleagues from Alton Climate Action Network and others, and were happy to see so many ideas from our community groups included in the final reports, which cover transport, buildings, and land-use and agriculture.
Some of the recommendations are aimed at EHDC and other Local Authorities, others are requests for Damian Hinds to pass on to central government for actions that would support local efforts to decarbonise.
The conversations over the summer showed the value of involving different voices to address a shared problem and highlight the need for all parts of society – central government, local government, businesses, households and individuals – to play their part in tackling climate change with urgency.
Here are a few of the recommendations made by PeCAN that appear in the final reports. There are many more ideas in the reports themselves, which can be found along with the submissions from PeCAN on our resources page.
LAND & AGRICULTURE
Give Local Authorities a statutory duty to act on climate change to bring the necessary urgency and responsibility. The report reads: "We urge the Government, therefore, to put this right by placing a statutory duty on local authorities to take action on climate change in every aspect of its work, providing the necessary financial support to make this possible and establishing an accountability framework so that we can all tell whether our own local authorities are making progress or not."
Adopt the environmentally aware landscape policies of the SDNPA planning framework. The report reads: "A key step would be [for EHDC] to adopt the same landscape-led, climate sensitive approach to planning as the South Downs National Park Authority."
Maximise the ability of land to act as a carbon sink. On PeCAN's suggestion, the Action Group's Terms of Reference were changed in the first meeting to include carbon capture, since land holdings offer enormous potential to mitigate carbon emissions through certain land practices and initiatives. The revised ToR read: “to examine what we can do in East Hampshire to reduce carbon emissions and increase carbon capture, to improve biodiversity and to help communities adapt to the impact of climate change”.
Enforce existing speed limits and consider further reductions, as an immediate way to reduce transport emissions. The report reads: "There would be major benefit in enforcing the existing 70mph speed limit on motorways and dual carriageways due to the common abuse of the current limits and the resulting high emission levels. If this is not achievable then the re-imposition of the reduced National Speed Limits (60mph and 50mph) on dual carriageways and single carriageways would result in less fuel wastage for ICE vehicles as they would be running more efficiently and with lower emission levels. This could be an early winner as the only signing required is in the form of “reminder signs” on a very occasional basis."
Support the switch to non-fossil fuel vehicles through taxation changes. The report recommends for government: "The overall position re tax benefits should be reviewed, simplified, benefits stated clearly, and comment made on the longer-term programme for reductions in benefits, then advertised widely. Taxing non-zero emission vehicles progressively more heavily. The Fuel Duty Escalator to be brought back into use."
Support active travel. The report reads: "[Local authorities to] reduce traffic levels in town and village centres and make the environment more pedestrian friendly."
Make retrofitting cheaper. The report recommends for government: "VAT – urgently investigate the zero-rating of retrofit and refurbishment costs."
Use planning to make construction greener. The report calls for EHDC to "Revisit the draft Local Plan, with the aim of bringing its policies on sustainability, energy efficiency, environment, climate, and nature in line with best practice".
Local authorities to help retrofit community buildings. The report calls for EHDC to "Create a grant fund for retrofitting of community buildings, churches etc. to serve as local exemplars".
Greg Ford, Chair of Trustees at PeCAN, said:
“Thank you to Steve and Melanie for their expert contributions to these reports and to the 85 members of the public who shared ideas with us via online surveys. Thanks are also due to the organisers and the hardworking staff at Damian Hinds’s office and the three chairs of the Action Groups. I hope the ideas flagged in these reports will lead to a raft of new, effective and immediate actions being taken in our community and by our local authorities and government to tackle climate change. PeCAN looks forward to supporting the resulting actions.”
The Action Groups met over July and August and participants provided verbal and written inputs.
PeCAN was represented on the Transport Action Group by transport expert Steve Atkins, on the Land & Agriculture Action Group by ecologist Melanie Oxley, and on the Buildings Action Group by PeCAN chair Greg Ford.
The Community COP takes place at The Maltings, Alton, from 2pm on Friday 8th October 2021. The aim of this free public event is "to raise awareness across the district of what is being done locally to reduce carbon emissions and the steps local people and organisations can take for themselves". Further details and registration here.