Brentwood Climate Action was pleased to hear recent pledges from Brentwood Borough Council Leader, Cllr Chris Hossack, that the planned Sustainability Strategy will be published in 2022 and include carbon reduction targets and objectives for the authority.
1. What is the total carbon footprint of Brentwood Council from all its current operations, including housing, offices and works?
2. I note that the Council is preparing an Environmental Strategy aimed at taking the ‘Council and the Borough’ towards Zero Carbon 2040. How will you ensure that progress is being made? Will there be intermediate targets, scrutiny and control measures? By when do you intend the Council’s own operations to be carbon neutral?
In reply to the first question, Cllr Hossack said: “It’s not an insignificant task to baseline the carbon footprint of all of our operations – probably as an organisation, as an employer in Brentwood, the largest task of any organisation in Brentwood actually.
“Our newly appointed Climate and Sustainability Officer is undertaking this baselining exercise. We’re bringing together the information on the carbon footprint, and it will form part of the baseline that our performance will be measured against moving forward.”
Liberal Democrat opposition Leader, Cllr Barry Aspinell, added: “I welcome the question and I hope whatever detail we get back includes our Council housing, which is considerable, and every other detail; and I look forward to it when it comes to us.”
And Labour Leader, Cllr Gareth Barrett, pointed to previous work done by other local authorities: “I think Cllr Hossack is right, it is a big piece of work, but there are several London Boroughs and Councils in the east of England that have already done this equation, with summaries we’ll be able to work from. There is a carbon workbook for local authorities that again we can work from.
“It’s also not necessarily our emissions day to day, but how much carbon when we’re building new things – the laying of concrete is one of the most carbon intensive things you can do. As a Council we have to think how we can net off or produce alternatives to reduce those emissions as we develop.”
Cllr Hossack confirmed that Brentwood residents could look forward to the Sustainability Strategy in 2022 in his answer to the second question, explaining: “The strategy that’s being created will be published next year and will identify where we want to be as an authority, and by when. The strategy will lead to clear targets and objectives identifying appropriate areas of work the Council should concentrate on that will create most reward in this sector.
“In doing so, measures will be put into place with the mechanism to record and publish achievements against the targets. The Strategy will also seek to identify when the Council will become carbon neutral and the measures and steps the Council will need to take to achieve that objective.
“The Council has set an overall aim to be carbon neutral by 2040. Once a baseline has been established a more specific target can be set.”
Cllr Aspinell pointed to the need to consider ongoing housing development, saying: “We should also be looking at our Local Development Plan and, where it is possible, adding in to that that no building should be built unless they are carbon neutral on any of the sites that this Council has identified for building.”
Cllr Barrett suggested that any such climate action plan would require highly visible monitoring: “Scrutiny-wise, this needs to become a key scheme of work for the Audit and Scrutiny Committee. If progress is to be made it needs to be made sure that it isn’t a greenwashing exercise.
“In terms of intermediate targets, when we look at other large-scale organisations when they start their carbon programme, we have a net zero target the Council has set of 2040 – I still think it can be more ambitious and a 2030 target is more than viable – but to the same extent what most large organisations find is that the first 50 per cent is the low hanging fruit that can be achieved rather rapidly. The first five-year ambition is the important one; and then it gets progressively harder unfortunately, but if we set a big ambition to hit early on then I think that’s a viable and sensible plan to have.
“And that level of ambition also sets a mark in the sand that we can be marked against rather than a long-term 2040 target which we’re reliant on new technologies to appear. Actually what we can do now can probably get us half way – let’s set that ambition, and let’s make it.”
Brentwood Climate Action members will be bringing forward suggestions for inclusion in the Council’s climate action plan, and actively engaging in all available avenues for consultation – as well as continuing to press for the Council to recognise the seriousness of the situation and declare a climate emergency.
You can watch the full recording of the Council meeting – with this relevant Q&A section starting from 30:00.