By Andrew Topping, Local Democracy Reporter
Plans to make Ashfield Council’s operations carbon-neutral by 2030 will be an “absolute deadline”, with the authority working to reach the target earlier.
The Ashfield Independent-led council has approved its new climate change strategy outlining plans to meet the 2030 deadline and to ensure all external business is environmentally friendly within 30 years.
But the council’s leader says his administration plans to reach the target within the next few years – saving thousands of tonnes of carbon in the process.
The new climate plan, approved by the cabinet on Tuesday (June 21), will see the council ensuring its fleet of vehicles is powered by hydrogen or electricity and promoting several environmentally-friendly travel schemes.
This will include projects like cycle-to-work, car-sharing and investing in walking and cycling infrastructure across the district.
The authority has also committed to ensuring existing and new social homes are as energy-efficient as possible as well as supporting homeowners and landlords with decarbonisation retrofitting schemes.
And all heating systems and boilers across social homes and council buildings will become energy-efficient, while the volume of waste produced across the district will be drastically reduced.
This would include eliminating food waste going to landfills and by promoting recycling schemes.
The council says some actions within this plan have already been taken in the past four years, with the measures outlined as part of a wide-reaching document aimed at meeting the net-zero goal.
However, Councillor Jason Zadrozny (Ash Ind), leader of the council, does not want the council to aim for 2030 and believes the goal can be reached earlier.
Speaking during the cabinet meeting, he said: “I’m hopeful, and I know it’s ambitious, that 2030 is a finite target.
“We’re not working to that, we’re working to get there as quick as possible and if it’s 2024 or 2025 that would be delightful for me.
“I think we should be ambitious and 2030 is the absolute deadline. If we can bring that in years before then it will save thousands of tonnes in excess carbon, which is a wonderful thing.”
The plan also confirms the council will work with external partners – including companies it trades with and its own investments – to significantly reduce carbon emissions by 2050.
This, the authority says, will require “significant and rapid change” within the supply chains to allow the council different purchasing and investment options to meet carbon-neutral targets.
Changes will include analysis of current investment emissions and research into potential low-carbon investments in the future.
And the authority will look at directly financing projects to reduce greenhouse gases.
The plan comes in response to a zero per cent grading from action group Climate Emergency UK earlier this year.
The scathing assessment found the authority was yet to make progress on addressing climate change.
The council said at the time it was because the climate action plan was yet to be published, with several of the measures outlined in the document – including energy-efficient vehicles – having already been achieved.
The authority has also invested in electric vehicle charging points, purchased 100 per cent renewable electricity and secured more than £5 million in Government funding to reduce emissions since 2020.
Cllr Dave Hennigan (Ind), the portfolio holder responsible for the plan, added: “[These measures] are not fashionable, they’re the right thing to do.
“This is a work in progress and a tremendous job has already been done across the council.
“We need to continue lobbying to Government because these measures come with a price tag, but it’s a price tag worth paying so we can do our bit to help with climate change.”
Progress on the climate plan will be regularly assessed by the council’s scrutiny panel to ensure it is meeting its targets.