Reducing carbon emissions from its leisure centres, boosting biodiversity along the city’s waterways, improving recycling rates and launching a public bike hire scheme are among the measures planned as Worcester City Council forges ahead with action to help the city become carbon neutral.
At November’s Environment Committee meeting, councillors will be asked to back an updated Environmental Sustainability Strategy, first adopted by the Council in 2020.
Worcester City Council Action Plan
Its Action Plan for 2023–24 will continue to seek to reduce carbon emissions from the Council’s operations as well as from Worcester homes, businesses and transport, and to bring environmental improvements across the city.
If the Action Plan is approved, a proposal will be made for an initial budget of £150,000 to be allocated to build on the work done so far to make the city greener.
Vice Chair of the Environment Committee, Cllr Karen Lewing said: “Both Worcester and the City Council have made some good progress on the journey to becoming carbon neutral. However, there is much more to do and that is why I believe it is essential that the committee supports the action plan and the proposal for additional funding for this vital work.”
The carbon emissions of the Council and the city are calculated annually, and in 2020 Worcester had the lowest emissions per-head of all Worcestershire districts. The figure was also significantly lower than the national average, partly because of the absence of motorways and major roads within the city boundary.
Carbon dioxide emissions for Worcester have more than halved since 2005. Between 2019 and 2020, the city saw a 10.4% reduction in CO2 emissions.
The main sources of recorded emissions in Worcester for 2020 were from homes (41%) and transport (30%), followed by industry (13%).
2020 saw widespread restrictions on travel because of the pandemic, so it is expected that figures for 2021 and 2022 will show a decrease in emissions from homes, but an increase in travel-related emissions.
Electricity used across all City Council sites is from green, renewable sources. As part of the proposed 2023-24 action plan, officers will continue to investigate sustainable and affordable alternatives to gas for the powering of Council buildings in the future.
For the first time, the City Council has included CO2 emissions from Perdiswell, St. Johns and Nunnery Wood leisure centres in its carbon footprint for 2021-22. Emissions across those three sites made up 32.8% of the City Council’s total carbon footprint.
Freedom Leisure, which operates the leisure centres on the City Council’s behalf, has already taken steps to reduce emissions, but the Council plans to help find long-term viable solutions, including the possibility of installing solar panels at Perdiswell Leisure Centre.
Following from the UK’s presidency of COP26, the global meeting of leaders aiming to tackle climate change, there has been concern that the UK is not doing enough to meet its global commitments.
Councils like Worcester City Council are doing much more than some in their fight to tackle the climate emergency. Actions speak louder than words and therefore it is great to see such positive leadership from Councillors in Worcester.
All Councils have leisure centres which make substantial amounts of carbon emissions and during the energy crisis, Councils are looking to reduce their expenditure. Plans like these in Worcester are a win-win for local taxpayers.
It is important for local government to share their learnings with other local authorities as tackling climate change is a collective effort. Other areas around the country have already implemented climate reduction policies with reference to leisure services. There is an opportunity for councils to share these learnings.