The results of Dorset Council’s consultation on its climate and ecological emergency strategy show that while Dorset residents are in wide agreement about the council’s approach, many would like it to become carbon neutral by 2030 and not 2040.
The consultation ran for 12 weeks between October 2020 and January 2021 and there were 1,519 responses received.
Now the results will be discussed at Dorset Council’s Place and Resources Scrutiny Committee on Thursday 25th March 2021, along with the action plan to show how it will achieve its targets.
Dorset Council aims to become a carbon neutral council by 2040 and by working in partnership with communities and organisations across Dorset, to help make the county carbon neutral by 2050.
High level of overall agreement on water and waste strategy
In the consultation, Dorset Council received a high level of overall agreement (78.4 percent) for its strategy to reduce the demand for water, reduce wastage and manage water resources.
It also received a high degree of overall agreement (77.1 percent) for its approach to reduce the amount of waste produced by keeping resources in use for as long as possible and recovering and reusing products and materials wherever it could.
Less enthusiasm for Dorset Council’s 2040 carbon neutral target
However there was less enthusiasm for Dorset Council’s carbon neutral target to be met by 2040 (17.1 percent) and for the county to be carbon neutral by 2050 (6.1 percent). Although more supported the targets than those who opposed them, it was only by a small margin.
In addition to the comments, a petition with 1,410 signatures, organised by Dorset CAN and supported by Planet Purbeck was submitted to Dorset Council calling for it to change its carbon zero target from 2040 to 2030.
Dorset Council says it will investigate further the reintroduction of beavers
Additional ideas suggested by respondents
Following the consultation, the draft strategy has been modified and some additional ideas suggested by respondents added. These include:
- Continue to lobby central government over changes to national policy to encourage and enforce carbon-neutral planning and development
- Council-owned tree management policy will include replacing every felled tree with two new ones, and create tree planting programmes to prevent flood risks and water pollution
- Implementing electric vehicle and hydrogen infrastructure everywhere possible, both rural and urban
- We will investigate the reintroduction of beaver colonies to facilitate flood prevention and to improve water quality and enhance biodiversity
- Working with internal and external partners to identify opportunities for large scale rewilding
- Develop a plan to encourage adoption of more climate and ecological friendly practices and a greater protection of soils and share best practice with the wider farming community
- Lobby central government over the amount of plastic packaging and lack of action by retailers and supermarkets
“We believe the current targets remain both ambitious and achievable”
Councillor Ray Bryan, Dorset Council’s portfolio holder for highways, travel and environment said:
“A lot of hard work has gone into the development of the strategy, which has been informed by officers, councillors, communities and the public.
“Therefore it comes as no surprise that the majority of the respondents support what we’re proposing to do to tackle climate and ecological change in Dorset. The few changes we have made add further improvements and I’m pleased with the results.
“We appreciate that many people want the council to act faster on achieving carbon neutrality. However, given the resources and existing technology available to us, we believe the current targets remain both ambitious and achievable, including a 70 per cent reduction in our carbon footprint by 2030.
“We will continue to aim for earlier targets if possible, especially if central government amend their own target dates and make changes to legislation accordingly.
“Other commenters asked us to introduce stricter environmental regulation on things like car use, development and building control, much of which is currently outside the council’s direct authority.
“We intend to use these suggestions as we commit to continue lobbying central government for extensive changes in national policy. This will give us the powers we need to ensure developers commit to zero carbon property building in our county.
“Other suggestions included more regular reporting of our progress and closer scrutiny of our ongoing climate work, which have been fully taken on board and we will change our approach accordingly.
“The strategy is a living document – a continual work in progress – and will be amended in the future as further scientific evidence becomes available, new technologies emerge and additional grant funding comes our way.
“I want to take this opportunity to thank residents, businesses and groups for their time in giving us their open and honest feedback. But this is just the beginning of our efforts – the real hard work starts now as we begin to take decisive and bold actions to change the way we do things in Dorset to address the climate and ecological emergency.”