What is the Climate Emergency?
In May 2019 Monmouthshire County Council declared a Climate Emergency, with unanimous support from Councillors. Cllr Jane Pratt has been appointed as cabinet member responsible for climate change and decarbonisation.
This is really important, because:
Tackling climate change is really important, because if the planet’s temperature rises by 2°C we face risks of drought, flood and poverty – the impact will be massive for hundreds of millions of people. In Monmouthshire impacts that could happen include more extreme weather events (such as storms), water shortages, droughts, species loss and risk of flooding. To read the full report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, see https://www.ipcc.ch/report/sr15/
Swedish teenager, Greta Thunberg, who started striking from school outside the Swedish Parliament and started a global movement of school strikes for climate, powerfully explains the importance and urgency of tackling climate change now:
What do we need to do?
There are lots of things that the council are already doing to try and reduce our carbon emissions, such as reducing our energy use, generating solar power and trying to encourage electric cars.
However, these things on their own are not enough to tackle the Climate Emergency. New initiatives are required to make a difference across all communities and citizens in Monmouthshire – it’s about how we travel, live, eat, produce our food, shop and how we are inextricably linked to our environment. This all needs to work whilst balancing the needs of enterprise and supporting our rural/agricultural economy now and in the future.
Plans are underway to meet our target to reduce council carbon emissions to zero by 2030. During summer 2019, council officers worked to develop an action plan and strategy to set out how we plan to do this. This action plan was adopted by Council in October 2019 and focuses on energy, transport, green spaces, waste and procurement.
What can I do to help?
The council can’t reduce carbon on its own and we need the help of the public and businesses. Monmouthshire’s Community Climate Champions group have met with council officers to discuss how they can help – keep an eye out for more opportunities to get involved with council activities to reduce carbon.
There are simple steps that everyone can take to reduce their carbon footprint, such as walking and cycling more, reduce, re-use and recycle waste and buying local food. Here are some ideas:
Reducing energy use
- Make sure you have got draught proofing and loft and cavity wall insulation in your home – save money and energy. https://www.energysavingtrust.org.uk/home-insulation
- Simple things like switching off the lights, not leaving things on standby and only boiling the water you really need in the kettle can really make a difference. https://www.energysavingtrust.org.uk/home-energy-efficiency
- Understand how your heating controls work and using thermostats properly can save energy.
- If you use a dishwasher, make sure you only use it when full.
- Make sure your washing machine in full and dry clothes on a line rather than tumble dry if you can.
Using renewable energy
- Switch your energy supplier to a renewable energy contract. https://www.moneysupermarket.com/gas-and-electricity/green-energy-tariffs/
- Find out whether you could install solar panels or another renewable energy in your home. https://www.energysavingtrust.org.uk/renewable-energy
- Consider what you want your savings or pensions to be invested in. https://www.finder.com/ca/ethical-savings-accounts
Managing green spaces
- Leave part of your garden wild, make habitats for wildlife and plant trees to absorb carbon dioxide. https://www.wildlifetrusts.org/actions
- Join a “Friends of” group to get involved in sustainable green space management, or find out about local groups who are doing community gardening and growing. https://www.farmgarden.org.uk/
- Try and reduce your food miles by buying food which is locally grown where possible and in season.
- Think about where meat you buy comes from and have a varied diet with plenty of fruit and vegetables
- Get involved in community allotments or establish a new allotment and have a go and growing your own fruit and veg. https://www.theallotmentgarden.co.uk/Easy-grow/
What we buy
- Think about how much you buy and whether you really need it.
- When you are buying food think local, in season, reduced and recyclable packaging.
- Support your local charity shop and buy second hand, or use schemes such as Freecycle https://www.freecycle.org/
- Consider buying “experiences” for people as gifts, or charity gifts that support sustainable projects, rather than buy gifts that aren’t wanted or needed. For example https://www.oxfam.org.uk/shop/oxfam-unwrapped
- Find out about and use all the different types of recycling that Monmouthshire does. https://www.monmouthshire.gov.uk/recycling-and-waste/
- Get recipes and tips for using food and reducing food waste. https://lovefoodhatewaste.com/
- Use refillable water bottles, and reusable containers for your lunch. https://refill.org.uk/
- Try and cut down on single use plastics. https://www.sas.org.uk/plastic-free-communities/
- Look after your clothes and don’t buy disposable fashion. https://www.loveyourclothes.org.uk/
- Donate unwanted clothes, bric-a-brac, books, furniture etc. to your local charity shop to reduce landfill and help raise money.
Walking and Cycling
- Try and walk for short journeys, and reduce carbon while getting fit at the same time!
- Find out about local cycle routes and cycling groups and get on your bike. https://www.sustrans.org.uk/national-cycle-network/
- Team up with parents and your local school to develop a walking bus to walk your little ones to school.
- Get involved with local public rights of way volunteering opportunities. https://volunteer.monmouthshire.gov.uk/
- Ask your employer if they can provide showers and lockers so that you can cycle to work.
- Try and car share when you can, to save fuel and money. There are schemes to help. https://liftshare.com/uk
- If you are thinking of replacing your vehicle, think about whether an electric car would work for you. There are grants which can help. https://www.energysavingtrust.org.uk/transport/electric-cars-and-vehicles/electric-vehicles
- Find out about public transport options that could work for you. https://www.traveline.cymru/
- If you are 16 to 21 you can get bus travel discounts. https://mytravelpass.gov.wales/en/
- If you are 16 to 25 you can apply for a young persons railcard. https://www.16-25railcard.co.uk/
- Concessionary bus passes are available from Transport for Wales. https://tfw.gov.wales/
Education and involvement
- Get involved with your school’s Eco Committee, or if your school isn’t an Eco School, find out more and ask them if they would consider it. https://www.keepwalestidy.cymru/pages/category/eco-schools
- Does your workplace have recycling or other environmental issues in place? Why not try and start something.
- Get involved with one of the many voluntary groups in Monmouthshire doing great work on climate change. https://www.transitionchepstow.org.uk/ https://transitionmonmouth.org / http://abergavennytransition.org/ https://www.facebook.com/AbergavennyExtinctionRebellion/
We are doing some of this already:
Here are some of the projects that the council already have underway:
- 99% of Monmouthshire County Council’s buildings use energy from renewal sources
- Installed a 5MW solar farm
- Almost 30 council building have solar panels
- Upgrades to street lighting and move to LED street lighting
- Rural Development Plan (RDP) has included: Village Hall Energy Makeovers, Energy Days programmes, Renewable Energy Community Scheme in Monmouth (exploring potential for renewables and natural flood risk management to reduce flooding in Monmouth) and energy mapping.
- Re-fit programme to reduce energy costs and carbon footprint, and maintenance and refurbishments to reduce energy use.
- Work with Registered Social Landlords on energy efficiency programmes
- The majority of Community Meals vehicles are electric
- Soon to pilot 20 hydrogen powered Rasa vehicles
- Work with Welsh Government and other Gwent authorities on fleet management
- Part of a Gwent feasibility study on electric vehicle charging
- Vehicle tracking to help with fleet optimisation and efficiency
- Rural Development Plan projects have included: Rural Transport Study and Fully Charged (20 EV charging points installed in tourism/hospitality venues)
- Successful Govtech bid to tackle rural transport and social isolation
- Agile working and increased use of Skype, video conferencing etc to reduce unnecessary travel.
- Using Active Travel funding to promote walking and cycling
Reducing indirect emissions
- Agreeing to ask Gwent Pensions Fund to disinvest from fossil fuels
- Adopting a Community Food Growing Policy
- Implementing a Pollinator Policy
- Committing to becoming a Plastic-Free County
- Moving to reusable recycling bags, rather than single use plastic
- Implementing Green Infrastructure strategy
Educating our children and community engagement
- Monmouthshire schools are actively promoting conservation, recycling and ‘plastic free messaging’. Many schools in Monmouthshire are part of the eco schools programme
- Monmouthshire Schools were previously getting through 11,500 plastic milk bottles per week, or 437,000 a year now all bottles are glass with milk produced within 30 mile radius bottled in a glass reusable bottle, delivered by a milkman
There’s more work to be done, but the hard work will be worth it for this generation and the next in beautiful Monmouthshire