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Devon Climate Emergency Response Group Meeting, 5th October 2023


Meg Booth
Emily Reed
Charlotte Brown
John Amosford
Chris Clarke
Eileen Russell
David Edmondson
Ben Carwardine
Matt O’Dowd
James Cooper
Mark Kentell
Adam Williams
Emmanuelle Marshall

Devon County Council (Chair)
Devon Climate Emergency
Devon Climate Emergency
Public Health Devon
Wales and West Utilities
Wales and West Utilities
Torbay Council
Wales and West Utilities
National Grid DSO
Environment Agency
North Devon Council
South Hams and West Devon Councils
Plymouth City Council

1.    Minutes of the previous meeting

The minutes were accepted to be a true record.

No further questions asked.

2.    Project Progress Report

a.     Communications and Taking Action

Charlotte provided an update reflecting Section 1.1 of the Progress Report at Annexe 1 of these minutes.

No further questions asked.

b.     Conservative Party policy announcements – a risk for local action?

The group discussed recent announcements from Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, including the delay in banning the sale of new petrol and diesel cars from 2030 to 2035 and changes in the phasing out of fossil fuel boilers.

Emily brought to the attention of the group that the risk register had been updated to reflect the recent announcements and the impact this could have on local action.

Meg expressed concerns about the new Plan for Drivers and potential conflicts with current transport advice, plus other changes impacting current policies. She continued that it is important to digest the facts of what is being said rather than the media portrayal of the announcements.

John agreed and said that we need to stand firm on existing policies and what is successful, and to not reiterate misinformation being picked up by mass media.

David raised concerns around the impact on active travel but hopes that communities desire for active travel will help.

Chris commented that current events are being influenced by the upcoming election. He added that, although it is disappointing, we may need to adapt to the increasing amount of dissent around climate action, shifting to narratives around value for money. Meg agreed that we may need to rebuild our approach now to gain further momentum later. John said that narratives should also include the cost-of-living crisis, and benefits for employment and the economy.

It was AGREED that this should remain on the risk register.

3.    Summary of the first meeting of the Climate Task Force

Emily summarised the meeting, which included bringing everyone up to speed, sharing the Terms of Reference, and discussing priority action reports to date. She reported that members had several questions about work so far and how best to scrutinise the priority action reports. The main takeaway was a challenge to provide metrics against each action – in the past, this has been difficult for actions that do not directly reduce emissions and only enable further activity, but this will be reviewed again.

The next meeting is in December. Emily will have further meetings with new members before then to answer further questions.

Meg reflected that their challenge is unsurprising as the DCERG have already considered the RAG system and its difficulties. She added that metrics will be iterative and will change over time.

John asked about who is representing planning issues on the Task Force and whether they are linked to the Royal Town Planning Institute. Emily replied that she will contact the current representative and ask how they are connected with the Institute.

Meg suggested that Team Devon produces templates for climate change policies for local authorities to use. They asked for more work to be done pulling together the status of local plans and associated policies.

4.    Food, Land and Sea Priority Actions

Emily reviewed the latest progress on Food, Land and Sea Priority actions.

James asked that text be updated to include information on the peatland code.

ACTION: Emily to update text.

Meg arranged to discuss working with the Soil Association with Emily separately.

5. Climate Adaptation Consultation Report

Emily ran through a PowerPoint presentation summarising the Climate Adaptation Strategy Consultation Report, including background, overall views, proposed amendments and next steps. Meg said that the feedback was helpful and interesting themes emerged from the consultation.

Chris said that the feedback that the Strategy cannot be supported without costing was important to consider. He asked whether there is anything we can add to the final Strategy to show the public the Strategy is good value for money. Emily replied that it could be incorporated into an implementation plan, and that it also might be worth citing work from the Climate Change Committee regarding the cost benefits of climate adaptation.

ACTION: Emily to include cost benefit information in the Climate Adaptation Strategy.

The Response Group agreed that the consultation report could be published on the Devon, Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Climate Adaptation Strategy website.

ACTION: Charlotte to publish the consultation report on the Devon, Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Climate Adaptation Strategy website.

6. Live net-zero delivery problems

No issues were raised.

Appendix 1 – Project Progress Report

Period: September to October 2023

Status Indicator Key:

🔴 [RED] = Significant issue that requires Response Group intervention;

🟠 [AMBER] = Minor issue that will initially be managed by the secretariat, but the Response Group should be aware;

🟢 [GREEN] = No issue.

1. Partnership Update 

 1.1 General Communications  

1.1.1 Updates and Metrics 🟢 [GREEN] 

Social media growth remains positive.

Our web development agency has completed switching our website to a new WordPress editor, Elementor, to resolve ongoing issues with formatting.

We have begun to use the new system of reporting communications activity, which includes a broader set of metrics regarding engagement and website performance. Takeaways found this month include:

  • There has been an increase in engagement rate (% of visitors to a page that stay on the page for at least 10 seconds and click links) for key pages, e.g. Taking Action – it’s not yet clear what may be causing this, we will continue to monitor in subsequent months. The rate has jumped from 17% to 56%.
  • A lot of people find our Devon Carbon Plan landing page from direct links, rather than via the homepage or main navigation menu – we are going to make links to it more prominent on the home page.
  • Engagement rate could be improved to meet the good-practice benchmark of 71%. Currently, key pages tend to be 10-20% under this. Planned SEO (optimising a website to make it rank higher in search-engine retrievals) and website restructuring work are expected to help.
  • Instagram continues to be our fastest growing social media platform. Reels have seen particular success this month, receiving 3-6x the usual amount of likes
  • An excellent open rate (counting each subscriber once) for the newsletter is maintained at about 46% despite continual growth in total subscribers, meaning that new subscribers are actively interested in it. A good open rate for this type of campaign would be about 20%.
Chart showing that total followers has increased to over 10000.

Figure 1.1. DCE Social Media Following

1.1.2     Campaigns and Projects

Net Zero Visions Curriculum Material 🟢 [GREEN]

The Sustainability Bulletin that goes to all schools in Devon in November will be used to distribute this, as the September bulletin did not have space.

Challenge Setters with the University of Exeter 🟢 [GREEN]

As part of a University of Exeter Liberal Arts module, groups of students will be conducting research for us surrounding young people’s perception of climate impacts, what actions they can take to improve their resilience and how climate adaptation could best be communicated. Their findings will inform how the Climate Adaptation Strategy is promoted to a younger audience.

We will attend a Q&A with the students this month to answer any questions they may have.

Devon Carbon Plan one year anniversary 🟢 [GREEN]

To mark the one year anniversary of the finalised Devon Carbon Plan’s publication, communications content this month will highlight some of the work that has happened in the past year aligning with the Plan.

1.2  Partners’ Notable Activity

  • Activity is recorded centrally on the Taking Action pages of the Devon Climate Emergency website.
  • Farms in the South Hams and West Devon can access bespoke support to improve their productivity through Regenerative Farming methods.
  • Specially designed concrete panels will provide new habitats for marine flora and fauna on the edge of the Plymouth Sound National Marine Park.
  • Researchers from the University of Exeter and other partners in a GW4 Alliance-led project will retrofit UK homes to be ‘Beyond Net Zero’, with help from a £4.6 million award from the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC).
  • The free Make It Net Zero Torbay programme has been launched to help businesses across Torbay to reduce their carbon emissions and save money on their energy bills.
  • The new Taste Mid Devon project will document how local food and drinks are produced with photography and videography, capturing the ‘field to fork’ journey.
  • A bug hotel made from repurposed building off-cuts has been installed in the Guildhall Shopping Centre, Exeter.
  • The North Devon Stagecoach 301 bus service will be running more frequently to connect rural communities with rail services, tourist attractions and more.

1.3  New Governance Structure 🟢 [GREEN]

The first meeting of the Climate Task Force occurred on the 26th September. They clarified their terms of reference, learned about the genesis of the Carbon Plan and the Adaptation Strategy and reviewed the Economy & Resources and Built Environment Priority Action Progress Reports. The Task Force made recommendations to the secretariat about how the progress reports can be improved to give them more information on which to judge performance. Next meeting will be in December at which recommendations for the Response Group will be prepared.  

2     Devon Carbon Plan 🟢 [GREEN]

Partners continue to deliver the Devon Carbon Plan. In a change of process, the monthly progress reports on a section’s priority actions are now being reviewed and updated by the Tactical Group before being presented to the Response Group. This worked well for the latest Food, Land & Sea Priority Actions Progress Report, considered by the Tactical Group at its September meeting; further activity was identified that had not previously been picked up.

A solution for displaying the Priority Action Progress Reports on the website was reviewed by the Tactical Group. Following some minor amendments this will be populated and loaded onto the website soon for the progress reports already reviewed by the Response Group.

The Secretariat continues to update the data for the monitoring indicators.

3     Devon, Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Climate Adaptation Strategy 🟢 [GREEN]

The consultation report describing the findings of the public consultation on the Adaptation Strategy, and how the final report will be updated to reflect those comments, has been approved by the Climate Impacts Group.

Those amendments will now be made to the final document and the Response Group will be invited to endorse it at its November meeting, after which individual partners will be encouraged to endorse it via their formal procedures.

4     Devolution Update

Conversations with government departments continue.

5     Summary Comments

  • Partners continue to implement the Devon Carbon Plan. 
  • The Climate Task Force has met for the first time and has made constructive comments about how to better monitor the implementation of the Carbon Plan.
  • The adaptation strategy consultation report has been approved by the Climate Impacts Group and the final adaptation strategy is now being prepared. 
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