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Climate Task Force, Meeting Minutes, 12th December 2023

Attendees

Claire Pearce

Lyndis Cole

Richard Betts

Ian Hutchcroft

Gill Westcott

George Middlemiss

Harriet Bell

Ashish Ghadiali

Peter Nickol

Ian Bailey

James Shorten

Kalkidan Legesse

Paula Hewitt

Nik Bowyer

Laura Cardenas

Patrick Devine-Wright

Jo Atkey

Tim Jones

Apologies

Clark Denby

Hannah Lawrie

Secretariat

Emily Reed

Charlotte Brown

Doug Eltham

1. Minutes of the Previous Meeting 

Actions carried over: 

ACTION: Emily to add further information about stakeholders relevant to each action in the report.  

2. Devon’s Greenhouse Gas Inventory (‘carbon footprint’) 

The Task Force heard from Dan Lash from the Centre for Energy and Environment at the University of Exeter about how Devon’s greenhouse gas inventory and carbon budgets are prepared.  

Dan advised that: 

  • Data is produced annually 2 years in arrears due to availability of the source data.  
  • It covers all greenhouse gases.  
  • The inventory is based on a territorial basis – the emissions that occur within the geographical boundary of Devon, Plymouth and Torbay (other than electricity, which uses a national grid-average factor). This is the same basis as done nationally and by the Climate Change Committee.  
  • The main data source is government’s UK Local Authority and Regional Greenhouse Gas Emissions National Statistics.  
  • Data about waste is obtained from the National Atmospheric Emissions Inventory and South West Water. 
  • Data about fluorinated gases is obtained from the national f-gas inventory. 

The carbon footprint data is published on the Devon Climate Emergency website.  

For the Devon Carbon Plan, emissions have been projected forward to 2050. This was based on the Climate Change Committee’s 2018 Progress Report (looking over the period to 2032) and their Further Ambition scenario for net-zero by 2050.  

Each year’s future emissions are grouped into five-year periods. The cumulative emissions in these periods are referred to as ‘budgets’. The first is 2018 – 2022, the second is 2023 – 2027 etc.  

We know that that the first budget period is likely to overshoot by at least 9%, which will be carried forward into the second budget period, making it harder to meet that second budget period.  

Discussion 

Richard noted that transport emissions seem to be the most stubborn. Will the carbon anticipated to arise from each action be calculated so that we can see the impact of each on the carbon budget. Emily advised that this was explored when the Carbon Plan was being prepared, but many are enabling actions which make it difficult to assign carbon because it’s individuals’ behaviour that will lead to the carbon saving. For example, we can put in place support for people to retrofit their homes, but the carbon won’t be saved until the home is retrofitted.  

Nik asked if the transport emissions include aviation and maritime? Dan said that they don’t because data is poor quality. Later in the chat Dan provided stats on emissions attributable to flights from Exeter Airport, which account for about 2% of Devon’s emissions. Doug added that marine emissions are about 1%.  

Nik asked what the scope is to reopen actions and add to them? Emily said this isn’t precluded but due to the partnership nature of how the actions were developed, time would be better spent developing project proposals to take to the partnership instead.  Ian Hutchcroft said the Task Force should propose new actions where they are necessary.  

Ian Hutchcroft asked what future farming looks like under the scenario in the Carbon Plan considering that carbon removals are expected to be part of the solution, which will commonly be provided by agricultural land. Dan said the future is described in the Devon Carbon Plan. The scenarios will be updated regularly to reflect what’s actually happening on the ground, and it might be that the scenarios are too optimistic or indeed pessimistic with regards carbon removals. There’ll be a practical limit to what this can provide. This will be monitored over the next 30 years.  

Ian Bailey added that it will be important to update the trajectories regularly because future policy assumptions are fickle – for example the recent announcements about the ban on internal combustion vehicles.  

Tim added that there is lots of activity going on beyond the Carbon Plan, particularly around businesses’ approaches to transport activity.  

In the chat, Paula asked Are we able to see how Devon is doing compared to other areas of the country? Are there any areas that are doing really well that we could learn from? Emily said there are organisations trying to compare policy efforts by Local Authorities, such as Climate Emergency UK Council Climate Action Scorecards | Climate Emergency UK (councilclimatescorecards.uk). Devon is doing well in this particular league table.  

3. Transport Progress Report 

Nik suggested whether the entire theme should be RAG rated? This could make it clear to decision makers which themes need focus.  

ACTION: Secretariat to highlight to the Response Group that the transport sector needs particular attention due to no emissions reduction in the 2021 data.  

Nik asked what will be happening to get similar schemes back in place following the demise of Co-Cars and Co-Bikes. Doug said that a tender for a shared car and shared bike scheme will be launching in the New Year.  

Nik added that it’s great to see all of the major authorities having Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plans. But we must remember that these in themselves don’t reduce carbon – they are the basis for funding opportunities. So what is next? Richard agreed with this point and added that it’s also reassuring that local decision makers are continuing with the trial of the low traffic neighbourhood in Heavitree and Whipton. 

ACTION: Secretariat to ask Devon, Plymouth and Torbay how their LCWIPs will influence immediate investment. 

Tim said there are tensions between the need for low carbon rural areas e.g. northern Devon, but also a growing economy. With much of the transport activity being car, particularly for tourism, electrification is essential. Tim added that clarity over the planning system for businesses would help with this.  

Peter said the Bus Service Improvement Plan, which he helps monitor, is brilliantly put together and is fairly spread around Devon’s communities but more work is needed to get to the point of getting people out of cars and onto buses. Individually, the measures needed to enable this to happen are possible – they need to be quicker, cheaper and easier to use than cars. We also need new development to be planned to be served by buses.  Emily said that many of the projects at the moment, such as the Heavitree and Whipton pilot, are ultimately aiming to achieve modal shift. There has also been seasonal messaging about buses to use for Christmas get-togethers, and a planning checklist shared with the Devon and Cornwall Planning Officers’ Group which transcribes the principles from the Carbon Plan with regard to spatial planning.  

Gill asked if the planning checklists could be shared with councillors and put in the public domain. Doug said the checklist summarises what’s already in the Carbon Plan, so sharing it wider isn’t a problem. 

ACTION: Secretariat to put the planning checklist on the website.  

Ashish said it’s important for air and marine activity to be incorporated into the Carbon Plan. Doug and Emily advised that there are actions in the Plan about clean propulsion for both aviation and marine, and the emissions are stated in the Carbon Plan separate to the formal carbon footprint.  

ACTION: Paula and Tim to share information about marine and aviation infrastructure projects with the secretariat.   

James reported that he and Tim had been to the Devon and Cornwall Planning Officers Group and Team Devon (Chief Executives and Council Leaders) to discuss the need for planners to prioritise net-zero and to avoid duplication by collaborating on policy development. The outcome was that Team Devon wanted to know the current stage of each local authority in their local plan development and a date to revisit Team Devon has yet to be set. Emily is collating the local plan information with Devon CC’s planning team.  

4. Food, Land and Sea

Harriet noted that various actions in the FLS section are trying to address different aspects for land use, but it’s not clear how they link together. Emily said that next time we update the FLS section we will report on all actions in that section, not just the priority actions which should make things clearer. Their interrelationship is described in the Carbon Plan text.  

Harriet encouraged the free Soil Association Exchange tool to be used by farms.  

Harriet said that the Forest for Cornwall service works well for tree planting. 

ACTION: Emily will pass the Forest for Cornwall service on to DCC’s Tree Officer.  

Lyndis questioned whether the farming advice is still being provided and also what status the Land Use Framework has achieved. Emily said we’re expecting a final report from the Food, Farming and Countryside Commission about the pilot Land Use Framework but it’s not clear where this will go next.  

ACTION: Secretariat to remind the Response Group that the FFCC’s report is still awaited.  

Regarding the farm advice, Business Information Point is providing intensive advice to farmers to some areas using Shared Prosperity Funding and there is a less intensive offer available for the whole of Devon. Lyndis said it doesn’t always work when topics are cherry picked for workshops. Emily said bespoke advice is available, for free, specifically on decarbonisation but none have been taken-up so far.  

5. Energy Supply

George said an option to explore could be allocating the whole of a local authority area for wind, rather than identifying induvial sites. Then let the policies in the Plan guide where such schemes arise for development. 

ACTION: Secretariat to suggest this to the Devon and Cornwall Planning Officers’ Group 

George added that the Community Energy Fund is open. 

ACTION: Secretariat to share with the Devon Community Energy Network.  

Paula highlighted the issues of grid capacity and skills. Doug explained that new regulations from 1st April 2023 allow National Grid ESO to reinforce the local distribution network ahead of need. These will ultimately be funded from electricity consumers’ bills. They have used energy scenarios to predict future demand and identify where future growth may occur. The company is recruiting new staff to fulfil the upgrade requirements to the network over the next 30 years towards net-zero. There is a high demand for new connections due to the backlog that the previous regulations caused, plus the need for planning permission can delay reinforcements, so it will take a while to catch-up with demand. The top 70 transformers requiring an upgrade have been identified, and these will be updated for the long-term. 

Emily described the Train for Tomorrow initiative that is offering reskilling opportunities in low-carbon fields.  

Richard asked if there is something we can be doing locally to encourage heat networks. Emily said that incentives tend to come from national government but that local plans can be used to require connections to district heating where it is shown to be viable. The Local Area Energy Planning work will add further evidence for the need for district heating, particularly in new development.   

Patrick asked if Energy Saving Devon could be used to raise awareness with people about the need for large scale renewables.  

ACTION: Secretariat to ask the Energy Saving Devon project manager if it’s appropriate to make this link.  

6 Cross Cutting Themes

Harriet asked whether any progress has been made on working out how we can get good practice from pockets of Devon spread to other areas. Emily said progress on this requires funding to be available to other areas, which is usually applied for at district council level. The aspiration is still there and we’ll keep looking for funding options.  

It was noted that communications and engagement should have dedicated resource. Emily said that Charlotte will not be replaced due to recruitment freeze.  

ACTION: Secretariat to raise with the Response Group that the extent of community engagement require for net-zero means that dedicated resource is necessary. 

Harriet said that whilst Action C5 is completed, it still needs a KPI 

7. AOB

Further Information 

Emily offered a 1:1 chat with any members requiring further information. 

Reporting to the Response Group 

Claire advised that the concerns of this group are presented to the Response Group by Emily and Doug.  

Development of KPIs 

Emily invited members of the Task Force to work with her on the development of KPIs. 

Biographies of Task Force Members 

Emily has been collating biographies for each Task Force member, where one was not emailed over she has taken information from LinkedIn profiles or similar.  

ACTION: Emily to share the draft biographies and all task force members to let Emily know if amendments are needed.  

8. Next Meeting

13th March 2pm, with topics to be covered being Adaptation and Economy & Resources. 

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