No 'quick wins' left says council as carbon dioxide cutting climate change effort slows up

Solar panels on the roof of Redcar and Cleveland House
-Credit: (Image: RCBC)

A council which previously declared a climate change emergency says it may have to find more radical, costly solutions to cutting its carbon dioxide emissions.

Redcar and Cleveland Council said all the “quick wins” available had gone and described how the annual reduction in carbon emissions achieved in recent years had slowed. A report by Councillor Carrie Richardson, the cabinet member for climate change, environment and culture, said that in 2023/24 carbon emissions from energy use amounted to 5,213 tonnes, a reduction of 575 tonnes on the previous 12 months.

It said: “Whilst a laudable achievement, in previous years the annual reductions have been greater, demonstrating the difficulty now faced. In previous years we have seen significant reductions in the council’s carbon emissions, but now it is becoming increasingly challenging to deliver notable reductions as the ‘quick wins’ have all gone.

“This situation is a test of the council’s appetite to continue to reduce its carbon footprint, as more radical, more costly solutions to further reduce consumption are now required if aspirations for 2030 [to be net zero carbon] are to be met.”

In 2021/22 about 6,900 tonnes of carbon were produced by the council, demonstrating the reduction in the past two years. The report said that, despite financial pressure, it was “imperative that the council does what it can within its sphere to fulfil its commitment to be carbon neutral”.

A road sweeper used by Redcar and Cleveland Council which is powered by hydrotreated vegetable oil
A road sweeper used by Redcar and Cleveland Council which is powered by hydrotreated vegetable oil -Credit:Stuart Boulton/RCBC

It said over the last year sixteen previously agreed actions from a climate change action plan had been carried out, including a continued rise in the use of zero or ultra-low emission vehicles, which now made up 22% of its core fleet. The report also described a building lighting survey being carried out to assess where older lighting units were still in use and could presumably be replaced by more energy efficient ones.

The local authority’s sources of carbon emissions include gas being used to heat buildings and diesel, as vehicle fuel.

Its street sweeping vehicles have been converted to use so-called hydrotreated vegetable oil, which reduces individual vehicle emissions by 80%. The use of hydrogen is also being explored as a fuel for some vans with funding for a trial being provided by the Tees Valley Combined Authority.

The council previously described its involvement with new road resurfacing schemes, which, due to the materials involved and the production process, have a much reduced carbon footprint with tree planting also being undertaken to offset the carbon remaining.

It has also installed solar panels on the roofs of a number of council buildings in order to generate renewable electricity. Last year environmental campaigner Rowan McLaughlin, who is standing for the Green Party in Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland in the General Election, told the Local Democracy Reporting Service the council’s climate change action plan was not “ambitious enough for what we need”.

The council has also been criticised for its involvement with several other councils in a £300m project to build an energy recovery facility at Teesworks. The plant will burn household rubbish left over after recycling to generate heat and electrical energy, which could power the equivalent 60,000 homes.

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