“Cambridgeshire’s work to respond to the climate change emergency has been shortlisted for a prestigious national award.

The County Council’s Climate Change and Environment strategy – underpinned by evidence from PhD students at Cambridge University – has been shortlisted in the Leadership in responding to the Climate Emergency category of the MJ Awards 2020.

The Council agreed in May 2019 to make a declaration of a Climate Emergency and through its collaboration policy research exchange programme with Cambridge University produced an evidence base of carbon emissions across the county.

Two carbon footprints were developed, one for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough which included all greenhouse gas emissions that occur in the county (excluding peatland) broken down across key sectors such as transport, domestic buildings and commercial services; and the second for Cambridgeshire County Council alone.

The council used this evidence to develop its draft Climate Change and Environment Strategy – with cross party support, and a vision ‘to deliver net zero carbon emissions for Cambridgeshire by 2050 in partnership with all stakeholders, whilst supporting our communities and Cambridgeshire’s biodiversity and environmental assets to adapt and flourish as our climate changes’.

This vision has already started to be translated into real action. The council has added a specific priority into its Business Plan which concentrates on helping Cambridgeshire reach this net zero carbon target by 2050 and set up a £16million Environment Fund to take all the Council’s offices it owns and occupies off fossil fuels by 2025 and cut its organisational carbon footprint by 50% by 2023. The Council procures £450million of services every year for Cambridgeshire communities and it will be working with its supply chain to reduce carbon emissions.

Cambridgeshire County Council has been leading the way in prioritising climate and environment issues for some time. Through its initial energy investments the Council has set up a self-financing unit to focus on energy project delivery. Initially this covered schools and a solar farm, but has now been extended to cover battery storage and smart-grid development. Since then the authority has invested £11m in schools to improve energy efficiency, resulting in energy bill savings of £910,000 a year.

In 2018 the Council won the British Renewable Energy Awards’ pioneer category and in 2019 became a signatory to UK 100, to lead solutions for rural communities and commit to securing the shift to 100% clean energy by 2050. As a result, Cambridgeshire County Council leader Cllr Steve Count, was asked to set up a Countryside Climate Network of rural authorities to work to share best practice across the country and develop nature based policy solutions to climate change.

Cllr Count said: “This excellent strategy is already a key part of our contribution to the Countryside Climate Network and is sure to be used by other authorities as they work together to tackle climate change and secure a cleaner future. Its shortlisting proves that Cambridgeshire’s work is recognised on the national stage.”

It also launched a Plastics Reduction Strategy – to eliminate single use plastics to protect the biodiversity of our oceans and marine life – and was also named ‘East of England Council of the Year’ at the 2019 Energy Efficiency Awards. The Plastics Reduction Strategy was adopted following a motion by Cllr Anna Bailey.

A virtual awards ceremony will be held by the MJ on 2 October when the winner of the Leadership in responding to the Climate Emergency category and other winners will be announced.

Cllr Josh Schumann, Chair of Cambridgeshire County Council’s Environment and Sustainability Committee said: “Reducing our carbon footprint is one of the Council’s foremost priorities – we have a huge part to play in making the world a cleaner place for future generations.

“The targets we have set ourselves are ambitious, but the county knows it can deliver, having already invested £22m into carbon reduction schemes to benefit local people, identified £56m to work in partnership on more, and planted 25,000 trees. It’s imperative for us that it’s properly funded and written into job descriptions. I am delighted that our Climate Change and Environment strategy has been shortlisted for such a prestigious award and wish it the best of luck on 2 October.””

Download draft Climate Change and Environment Strategy.