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Our progress in tackling climate change

Electric vehicles, solar energy, a 21% reduction in net greenhouse gas emissions and greater collaboration across Surrey are all part of a comprehensive report on our progress in tackling climate change which was discussed at a meeting of the Full Council last Wednesday, 10 February.

Work to install solar PV panels at Farnham Road multi-storey car park and our Millmead House office is due to be completed by April, with 10 electric minibuses becoming part of our Dial-a-Ride community transport fleet, based in Park Barn, by May.

A report by APSE Energy, part of the Association for Public Service Excellence, due to be published later this month shows that net greenhouse gas emissions from our activities fell by over 21% between 2016-17 and 2019-20. The total fell from 10,998 tonnes in 2016-17 to 8,586 tonnes in 2019-20. 

As we continue our commitment to becoming a net-zero carbon borough by 2030, gross emissions have also fallen 45% from our 2008-09 levels, to 8,613 tonnes, with a further 27 tonnes of CO2 being saved through us generating green electricity.

Lead Councillor for Climate Change, Cllr Jan Harwood says:  

"Climate Change is one of our key priorities as a Council. We are committed to becoming a net-zero carbon borough by 2030, and to collaborating more closely with partners and the wider community on a more joined-up approach. Everyone has a responsibility to act on climate change and we need to do all we can on a local level to become more environmentally sustainable by leading the way and making positive changes to reduce our carbon footprint.

"We have made great steps in reducing our CO2 emissions and will continue to reduce it even further. We also want to help our residents to make positive changes of their own to reduce their CO2 emissions. We're pleased with the progress that we have made to date but know that this is just the tip of the iceberg and there is a long way to go."

Alastair Atkinson, Chairman of Guildford Environmental Forum says:

"The Climate Emergency is now more urgent than ever and we are delighted to continue our partnership with the Council to help shape the future of Guildford and make it a greener, more sustainable town by educating, cutting energy use, reducing ecological footprints, helping wildlife and tackling climate change. We strongly support its desire to achieve net-zero carbon in the management of its own estate, and plans to work with residents, businesses and visitors." 

Since declaring a Climate Emergency in July 2019, and having published a high-level action plan in July 2020, we have looked for opportunities to work together with other districts and boroughs in Surrey as well as on a county-wide basis. We also want to confirm that climate change would be the main priority for any future unitary authority in Surrey, including the consideration of a Citizens' Assembly on Climate Change. 

Following our talks with Surrey County Council's Director of Environment, to identify shared objectives on transport, air pollution and renewable energy for residents and businesses, we have identified opportunities to work together, share expertise, and develop exciting projects. 

The 10 electric minibuses, which increase the number of electric vehicles to 20.84% of our Light Commercial Vehicles fleet, are part of our commitment to ensure our LCV fleet is fully electric by 2030. This follows the introduction of nine Park and Ride buses, which are the largest fleet of electric buses outside of London, built locally by Alexander Dennis Ltd. 

Any cars hired by our staff must now be hybrid or fully electric, and we are monitoring the development of hydrogen and electric technology for heavy vehicles, including refuse collection lorries, with a view to removing diesel vehicles from our fleet. Electric vehicles qualify for reduced residential parking permit fees, and we are working with Surrey County Council to introduce more electric vehicle charging points in the borough.

We provide many other options to help people reduce the number of car journeys they make. easitGUILDFORD offers discounts on rail and bus travel, plus reduced bike and car hire, to employees of participating businesses. 12 organisations, representing approximately 8000 staff, have joined, including Electronic Arts, Philips Electronics and The Royal Surrey Hospital NHS Foundation Trust. 
Our active travel plans are linking The Royal Surrey County Hospital, Surrey Research Park and University of Surrey to the town centre through improved pedestrian and cycle paths. Proposals for the new Guildford West railway station in Park Barn are working towards an anticipated opening date in 2025. 

Our Climate Change, Sustainable Design, Construction and Energy planning document, helps all new housing developments to have lower carbon emissions, be more sustainable and better able to meet the challenge of climate change. All of our developments already meet Passivhaus energy efficiency standards, and all new buildings in the borough have to meet a carbon emissions rate which is at least 20% better than national Building Regulations standards. We encourage housing developers to reduce the carbon in their building materials and will continue to promote the highest possible standards in efficiency. 

The University of Surrey's iSCAPE (Improving the Smart Control of Air Pollution in Europe), GCARE (Global Centre for Clean Air Research) and Living Lab projects have made Guildford a world-class hub for research and innovation in tackling air pollution and climate change. Their work with local communities, including schools and businesses, has improved air quality in the borough whilst creating strategies of worldwide importance. 
We have created Air Quality Action Plans for Shalford and Compton, as well as Management Plans for the A3, A331 and other major approach roads into the town, and have improved our carbon dioxide emission analysis. We also manage 33 air quality monitoring stations to measure levels of nitrogen dioxide, which can harm the lungs. 

The renovated Guildford Crematorium uses solar panels to provide two-thirds of its electricity, with excess heat from the cremation process also used to heat the buildings. All emissions at the Crematorium have harmful pollutants and nitrogen dioxide removed. 
One-quarter of greenhouse gas emissions come from food, and we recycle 4,400 tonnes of food waste every year. We also recycle over 200 tonnes of textiles (a sector which accounts for 10% of global emissions every year) and 44 tonnes of small electrical items in the borough. 
Our 700 hectares of award-winning parks and countryside space are managed for biodiversity of wildlife habitats and ecosystems, and use peat-free compost and recycled water to grow our flower baskets and troughs. We also compost and reuse all green waste, which reduces greenhouse gas emissions. The solar-panelled water troughs at Wey Valley Meadows ensure water supply for grazing cattle and help to prevent erosion and contamination of the river bank. Areas of Stoke Park, Compton Common and Merrow Downs are some of our most biodiverse habitats and act as carbon sinks, which absorb more carbon than they release. 
Hundreds of pupils at six local Primary Schools enjoyed learning about air quality earlier this year, with a tour jointly-funded by ourselves and Surrey County Council. Performance in Education's production of 'Abbie Ayre and the Shed of Science' showed how everyone can make a difference in the fight against air pollution by making small changes to their own lifestyle, such as walking to school or reducing the number of hours spent playing video games. 

All of our meetings have been paperless since April, and Councillors and senior staff completed Carbon Literacy Training to learn about the science behind climate change and the policies which can make a real difference. 

In collaboration with our partners at Surrey County Council, the University of Surrey, Guildford Environmental Forum, Highways England, the Environment Agency, easit network, Enterprise Rent-a-Car, Surrey Environment Partnership, Surrey Wildlife Trust, Plastic Free Guildford, Enterprise M3 Local Enterprise Partnership and Surrey Air Alliance, as well as local residents, we continue to protect and enhance Guildford's future.