City of Wolverhampton Council, the first Black Country local authority to declare a climate emergency, has published an action plan setting out how it will achieve its pledge to become net carbon zero by 2028.

Cabinet councillors are being asked to endorse the 87 point plan when they meet tonight (Wednesday 28 July). 

The move comes after councillors agreed in September last year, following a public consultation and citizens assembly, to make a commitment to future generations to become net carbon zero across all council activities by 2028. 

Councillors will hear that the authority has already reduced its direct carbon footprint by 52% since it declared a climate emergency in 2019, with greenhouse gas emissions dropping from 16,000 tonnes per year back then, to around 7,600 tonnes per year now. 

The impressive drop has mainly been achieved by the council switching to a renewable electricity provider which has prevented 7,000 tonnes of greenhouse gases from being pumped into the atmosphere. The introduction of LED streetlights has also reduced electricity consumption. 

In 2019, activities such as staff commuting accounted for around 2900 tonnes of indirect emissions.  

Changes to working practices due to the pandemic, with 80% of staff working from home, has reduced the council’s indirect carbon footprint by 10% with fewer staff commuting into the office. Use of council buildings has also decreased and fewer business miles have been clocked up. 

The action plan which Cabinet is being asked to endorse tonight sets out how the council will further reduce its emissions to bring the remaining 7,600 tonnes per year closer to zero by 2028 and offset any remainder. 

The plan includes 87 points - 66 of which directly relate to council activities and 21 which will cut across and contribute to a separate city wide net zero action plan which is currently under development. 

Many of the actions relate to de-carbonising the council’s 500-strong vehicle fleet by introducing electric vehicles and the infrastructure required to ensure they run efficiently. It is also proposed to introduce a new low carbon staff travel policy and electric pool cars to reduce emissions from staff commuting and business miles. 

Another key set of actions relate to the council’s estate and buildings and include proposals to switch to low carbon heating systems, maximising energy efficiency, disposing of underused or unwanted assets and installing renewable energy and battery storage across sites.  

New buildings will be required to have higher energy standards to ensure that low carbon energy systems are mandated within building designs from the start. 

Another proposal would see the introduction of sustainable procurement strategies which would enable the council to ensure climate change was being tackled through its contracts with external suppliers and purchasing decisions.  

Indirect emissions from agile working and staff commuting will be more difficult to reduce, but the council will work with employees by providing the tools and information they need to make individual reductions to their own carbon footprints. 

Significant investment will be required to deliver the action plan and if Cabinet approve the plan tonight, individual business cases and a costed roadmap will be developed over the summer which will then be subject to further Councillor approvals. 

Councillor Steve Evans, City of Wolverhampton Council’s cabinet member for city environment and climate change, said: “Tackling climate change is the biggest challenge facing our world, it is an emergency and we have to act in new and radical ways to save our planet for future generations. 

“City of Wolverhampton Council has previously declared a climate emergency and we were proud to be the first council in the Black Country to do so in 2019. We have also made tackling the climate emergency central to our Relighting the City strategy as we emerge from the pandemic. 

“Now, through our Net Zero Action Plan, we are showing how we are going to deliver on our promise to be at net zero emissions for the council by 2028. 

“We have a lot of work to do over the next 7 years, there is a not a moment to lose. We’ve already reduced our emissions by more than 50% since 2019 which is mainly thanks to switching to a renewable electricity supplier. 

“I’m really encouraged by the progress already made, we are talking about more than 7,000 tonnes of damaging carbon no longer being pumped into our atmosphere, and I strongly believe that through the adoption of this action plan, we can plot a course to reach our target by 2028. 

“We have made our values and vision around this clear, we are now setting out how we will achieve it. I hope the council’s actions will act as a catalyst to encourage other organisations and businesses to join us in becoming net zero and we will be working with stakeholders across Wolverhampton to put together a city wide plan to become net zero.” 

The papers going to tonight’s Cabinet meeting can be Climate Change Cabinet Paper