Friday, 5 February 2016

Cambridge City Council consults with environmental groups on Climate Change

Bev Sedley, Kati Preston and James Smith at the Climate Change Strategy Workshop
I am always impressed when I have dealings with Cambridge City Council officers on climate change issues because they care just as much as we do and are always keen to work with us where we can. Right now the council is in the closing stages of the five yearly review of their climate change strategy and I was delighted when David Kidston (Strategy and Partnerships manager) picked up our idea for a workshop to discuss the plan and ran with it. The date was set for 2nd Feb and in the end there were about 30 people there room a whole range of environmental groups in Cambridge including 38 degrees, Pivotal, Cambridge Past Present and Future,  Cambridge Carbon Footprint and of course Transition Cambridge.  Fortunately the Guildhall has some good sized rooms.

It was a bit of a rush, trying to review the whole strategy in 90 minutes but we did a valiant job. David asked for our comments and ideas on each of the 5 objectives and there were council experts to answer questions and explain. So, for example, the reason why the strategy calls for electric taxis but not electric buses is because there are no electric double decker electric buses on the market yet - and single decker buses can’t handle enough people. Emma Davies said she was delighted that we supported their idea to use planning rules to promote energy saving measures as consequential improvements. (So for example, if someone has plans for a home extension they would be required to take measures to reduce energy use in the rest of the house at the same time, where feasible). But mainly the council wanted to hear our new ideas, of which there were plenty. Suggestions included the council buying electricity from a green energy supplier, adjusting the park and ride bus services to improve uptake in those services, running an Open Eco Office event along the lines of CCF’s Open Eco Homes, and many more.

In fact the council has already achieved significant carbon savings from previous projects such as switching to LED lighting (Corn Exchange and some car parks), upgrading heating and cooling equipment (various swimming pools and leisure centres and offices) and even a heat recovery system at the crematorium. However, most of us didn’t know about this and there was a general feeling that communicating these successes to more people would change perceptions and raise aspirations across the city.

Also there will soon be a ‘Cambridge Sustainable Housing Guide’ that will set higher standards for sustainability and energy efficiency than current building regulations. Unfortunately this will only apply to new social housing sites and developments owned by the council because the council is not allowed to apply it more widely.

We covered a lot in a very short space of time, and David Kidston said that all of our captured comments would be included in their report to councillors.

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