National award for council's climate initiative
Our plans to tackle climate change have earnt us a top national award.
Our Low Carbon Team was named as having the Best Climate Action Initiative at this year's Association for Public Service Excellence (APSE) awards, which recognise the very best in local government frontline services across the UK.
In 2019 we declared a climate emergency and pledged to reduce carbon emissions from our operations by 80 per cent from 2008/09 levels by 2030, and aiming to make the whole of County Durham Carbon Neutral by 2050.
So far, County Durham's emissions have been reduced by approximately 53 per cent (from a 1990 baseline), through a range of actions which saw collaboration across all of our individual services and directorates, as well as work with external partners such as the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty team; the Auckland Castle Trust; Durham University; the NHS, The Coal Authority, OASES and Durham Food.
Carbon reduction projects such as our Street Lighting Energy Reduction Project, which replaced existing lighting with efficient LEDs, as well as the installation of solar panels and work to maximise the generation and storage of renewable electricity on our land and buildings, have reduced the council's own emissions.
Our award-winning Climate Emergency Response Plan also sets out more than 100 actions that are reducing emissions from the county's households, buildings, businesses, organisations and travel activity. They include improving the natural environment with woodland and wildflower planting; reducing waste and increasing re-use, recycling and composting; using natural, renewable energy resources; and promoting and improving infrastructure for walking, cycling and the use of public transport.
APSE is a not for profit unincorporated association working with over 300 councils throughout the UK, promoting excellence in public services. The awards were announced at an online event, following a rigorous round of judging, on 16 December.
Our Building and Facilities Maintenance Team was also shortlisted for the Best Commercialisation and Entrepreneurship Initiative award for its work to increase income generation and improve collaborative working.
Best in local government
Speaking about the awards APSE Chief Executive Paul O'Brien said: "These finalists are amongst the best in local government. Showing ingenuity and dedication to local government frontline services they are all deserving of their place. The APSE Service Awards are uniquely placed to recognise the enormous effort and dedication of these vital frontline services and the value of the unsung public sector heroes who deliver these services, day in and day out to local communities. Congratulations to all the finalists for 2020."
An opportunity for sustainability
Cllr John Clare, our climate change champion, said: "It's brilliant that our hard work to tackle climate change has been recognised with this award. The competition was very strong - to have been measured and compared with other authorities across the country and been judged as having the top plan is a fantastic achievement. I'd like to say well done to all the teams involved.
"It has been an incredibly tough year for everyone, but this award gives hope and reinforces that we are making the right decisions and taking the right steps in tackling the climate emergency. However, this is by no means the end of the story; it is just the beginning and we need everyone involved to continue their efforts in tackling climate change.
"As we plan for recovery from the Covid pandemic we have a profound opportunity to steer the county towards a more sustainable and inclusive path, which would tackle climate change, protect the environment, reverse biodiversity loss and ensure the long-term health, security and economic wellbeing of our residents."