To consider the report of the Chief Executive & Growth Director.
The Chief Executive & Growth Director made a presentation (a copy of the presentation is appended to the minutes) and reported on the progress from Exeter City Futures Community Interest Company on the work being done to progress the Net Zero Exeter 2030 Plan, together with a baseline Greenhouse Gas (GHG) inventory for the city. The report quantified the reductions required to achieve Net Zero by 2030 and identified more specific and timely metrics for monitoring progress towards carbon neutrality in each emissions sector along with key performance indicators as a strategic dashboard for the city. It also outlined the scale, opportunity, and pace of the challenge and step change in resources, activity and policy making both at a local and national level, required for the city to achieve a Net Zero city by 2030. Members were invited to comment on the report that would be presented to the next Executive.
In setting the context, Exeter City Futures offered a collaboration between the key public sector partners within the city (Exeter City Council, Devon County Council, the Royal Devon & Exeter NHS Trust, Exeter College and the University of Exeter and Global City Futures) to deliver on Net Zero, but also to build on sustainability, resilience, innovation and productivity, well-being and an inclusive agenda in respect of the city’s communities. The delivery of a whole system change approach to Net Zero includes looking at policy, but also the physical and social environment, and whilst there was potentially life changing positive social change, there was recognition that individuals as well as the collective need would each have their own future challenges. Organisations and institutions in the city would also have to consider their own behaviour. The Chief Executive & Growth Director referred to the vision that Exeter will be a carbon neutral city by 2030 and the aspiration that the Exeter of the future will have grasped the opportunities ahead, based on Exeter’s excellent reputation for climate science.
The Chair referred to advance questions received from a Member, (appended to the minutes along with a set of draft recommendations received for information). The Member welcomed the report and the ambitious target of 2030, which was 20 years ahead of the national target set by the public sector and commented on the Council’s report as follows -
· concern that not all of the University of Exeter’s key monitoring targets and areas identified for change such as retrofitting were replicated in the Council’s report.
· that a mechanism including an adequate supply chain should be encouraged to enable individuals, as well as the Council for their own housing stock, to be able to carry out retrofitting work.
· a planning consideration to reach a level of energy independence would help meet those targets, but there was no positive indication of how that related to the current restraints of Photovoltaic (PV) on buildings to enable this to happen.
· the University report has made reference to an 11% target and suggestions for a clean air zone and other measures such as a work place parking levy as well as looking at increasing walking and cycling rates. Such measures and targets should be referred to the Council’s Transport Working Group for action as well as consider if there any implications for the Exeter Transport Plan.
· a lack of policy target to reach a suggested target of a rate of recycling of 70% by 2030.
· rolling out a food waste collection service would increase the recycling rate to 50% and, if glass collection was included, that rate would go even higher.
· in conclusion, the Member suggested two key points for consideration should be to monitor all of the targets set out in the University’s report, and despite the drive to Net Zero by 2030 requiring collaborative action across many areas of the Council, there was no mechanism such as a standing committee to address this.
The Chief Executive &
Growth Director responded to a number of
the questions and stated that the Council’s report had only
included the headline areas, but it was acknowledged that
everything needed to be done and the cooperation of other partners
and organisations would be needed. The setting and adoption of
targets was possible, but adequate resources were needed to
address the obstacles. Exeter City Futures have brought together
organisations to consider the targets as well as working with the
County’s Transport Authority to look at overcoming any
obstacles. The Member reiterated the comment she made earlier
relating to the University’s full list of policy areas which
were not included in the Council’s report suggesting they
were needed to ensure that policy would need to flow from all of
the University’s measures and targets identified in order to
achieve the targets.
The Chief Executive & Growth Director responded to a Member’s enquiry stating that the Council could only work within national development guidelines and currently house builders could still deliver houses with gas boilers, which would have to be retrofitted in time. Members from both Scrutiny Committees have been scrutinising the City Development Fund, which included a land ownership model that offered more control rather than being dependent on national policy. The Director City Development added that the Exeter Plan will be a statutory document but it also offered a way to convene and meditate a contested space with developers, stakeholders, communities and the local planning authority. The whole system approach referred to in the Council’s report will present a strategic challenge for planning. He also responded to a comment on the scope for putting Photovoltaic Panels (PV) on Listed Buildings This was governed by different legislation to protect and enhance the setting and fabric of such buildings. Any significant intervention through further legislation required a balanced approach. The real challenge to address the rest of the city’s housing stock, remained.
Members made the following comments and the Chief Executive & Growth Director responded where appropriate and as set out in italics:-
Bristol and Lichfield Councils have established a mechanism to enable developers to pay for ongoing management of land sequestration. Efforts would be made to find an opportunity to investigate more detail of this work and, potentially, consider a pricing mechanism for such carbon off setting that could be included in the planning system and enable Devon to come up with its own unique way.
· as there may be a tipping point for future fuel type used for large commercial vehicles, perhaps a more generic approach for reducing carbon emissions in transport should be taken rather than setting targets due to the ever changing technology and resulting pace of change. Flexibility over the management of commercial vehicles was needed and discussions over alternative fuel sources such as with hydrogen manufacturers. The County Council would likely have views about such matters and the return in carbon terms.
· further examination of the assumption in the Council’s report of the conversion of 50,000 cars to electric, as any reduction in the number of journeys should be included in the modelling, along with the impact of congestion and air pollution. The Member also sought an explanation of the strategy to prioritise the electric charging infrastructure at such an early stage, when the overall plan would require very significant change on every street and might prevent the agility that will be needed. There was good reason to make an early investment to encourage people to purchase electric vehicles and allay any fears of not having a convenient charging point infrastructure. A number of the bus companies have also indicated they will no longer buy diesel engines and so if the charging infrastructure was put in place that could make the decision to change easier for them.
The Chair hoped that despite the cost of living crisis that there may be an opportunity to reinvigorate the economy through public spending to develop the green technology and the infrastructure needed. The Chief Executive & Growth Director referred to the various reincarnations of the county’s Devolution deals and the consistent message that Exeter has made a solid case to pursue green innovation. It was important to be clear locally about the direction of travel and wait for the right opportunity which he was confident that the Leader at the County Council would support.
The Chair referred to the discussion and sought Members’ support for an additional recommendation to set up a Standing Overview Group to scrutinise the all-encompassing piece of work that will be needed by both the City Council and all of our partners. The detail and operation of the new Group would be presented to the Scrutiny Programme Board. It would include the opportunity to enable witnesses to present evidence to ensure the whole process will be properly scrutinised. The challenge of the effort to tackle climate change with limited resources was acknowledged. Members expressed support for the additional recommendation.
The Strategic Scrutiny Committee supported the report and requested that comments made by this Scrutiny be relayed to the Executive when it considers the Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory report. Strategic Scrutiny Committee supported approval by Executive of the following:-
(1) the Exeter Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory and that the pace and scale of change required to deliver on the Net Zero 2030 goal will require a step change in resources, activity and policy making both at a local and national level,
(2) the importance of biodiversity and carbon sequestration in addressing the challenge of delivering a Net Zero Exeter and invite a presentation to a future meeting of Scrutiny Committee on practical proposals for linking the planning and development system with the climate and ecological emergency involving a mechanism to deliver net biodiversity gain on development sites and carbon offsetting within Devon, this could comprise a Natural Capital Delivery Partnership; and
(3) a Standing Overview Group be established, with the Scrutiny Programme Board requested to consider the detail of operation to enable further scrutiny of the collaborative work needed by the Council’s partners as an ongoing and significant piece of work.