Cllr Sophie CoxCabinet Member for Climate Emergency at Worthing Borough Council
Cllr Sophie Cox discusses Worthing Borough Council’s approach to combating the climate crisis.
It’s been a busy few months since the elections in May when I was elected to Worthing Borough Council and took on the role of Cabinet Member for Climate Emergency.
The Council declared a Climate Emergency in 2019 and my role has been to continue the work of the previous Cabinet Member, who had held the role since Labour took control of the Council in 2022.
The need to address the Climate Emergency has never been greater or more pressing as we see daily the effects of climate change reaching communities all around the globe. We as a Council must do all we can to combat this and take action wherever possible.
Our Labour manifesto promise is for Worthing to be the ‘fairest, greenest coastal town’ and with that firmly in mind I have been working with officers and other Cabinet Members to embed our greener principles broadly across the Council’s activities.
Work is continuing at pace to set up a District Heat Network in Worthing Town Centre, where it is planned to move our Council civic buildings to an alternative heating network with air source heat pumps, helping us to achieve our aim to be net zero as a Council in 2030. The plan for the future will be to bring even more businesses and organisations on to the heat network and away from their dependency on gas as a fuel.
The biggest carbon emitter of our Council sites is Worthing Crematorium. Thanks to the hard work of our Council Carbon Reduction team working alongside other partners, an exciting trial is currently underway in the Netherlands which could lead to us using hydrogen in our crematorium burners. If it proves successful then trials will begin at Worthing Crematorium in spring next year – and will bring a huge reduction in carbon emissions from the site.
We are also looking at our waste vehicle fleet, which currently uses diesel fuel. A fleet management strategy is being developed, in which we’re exploring the potential of alternative means of fuel for the fleet or the possibility of swapping over to electric.
Working with Planning and Regeneration teams will be key to our plans to ensure that future developments are offering the town fantastic eco-friendly and energy-efficient developments, whilst also looking at how we use Biodiversity Net Gain to improve green spaces and nature habitats.
Next on the agenda is to address how we widen our engagement with the community as we move towards our town-wide target to be net zero across Worthing borough by 2045. While this seems a long way off, a lot of work needs to be done that is outside of the Council’s immediate control, and will involve us making plans alongside other organisations.
In order to share best practice across the borough, we will be establishing a new eco-charter for businesses, swapping ideas and celebrating those who are achieving progress on their sustainability, with the aim of inspiring others to follow suit.
For those businesses looking to offset carbon, we will make it easier for them to involve local groups and projects rather than those in different areas or countries, to reduce their footprint and support the local community.
I’m also working closely with the Environment Portfolio on how we address the Ecological Emergency, after this was added to the Climate Emergency earlier this year. We’re looking at nature and green spaces across the borough – those that we are in control of and those that we aren’t. We want to enhance and improve these areas so they are helping to support pollinators and are sustained for future generations.
At Worthing Borough Council, we are acutely aware of the pressing need to tackle the climate emergency head on. At a time when the cost of living crisis continues to affect our residents and businesses, many of whom are still recovering from the Covid pandemic, we also have the added challenges that severe weather due to climate change can bring . For us as a seaside town, the weather can affect not only health and homes but tourism and therefore the economy too. We must ensure that the climate agenda is addressed in all our plans and that all decisions across the Council are sympathetic to our environment, reducing the footprint on our precious planet and showing the way forward for future generations.