Late last month, Dorset Council’s Climate and Ecological Emergency Executive Advisory Panel convened to hear about the continued progress being made by the authority in its work to tackle climate change.

First order of business was to discuss the motions put forward by Cllr Daryl Turner and Cllr Kelvin Clayton in Full Council meetings last year. These motions asked Dorset Council to set a target date for ensuring the council’s activities emit net-zero carbon, as well as developing strategies to work with local communities to achieve this goal, amongst other proposals.

In the panel meeting, Cllr Clayton emphasised that residents were seeking political leadership on the issue of climate change and were expecting Dorset Council to find solutions and get on with implementing them. Cllr Turner added to these points, stating that the authority needed targets and milestones, while expressing his desire for the Council to become a green energy supplier.

Panel chair Cllr Ray Bryan reassured councillors that the authority was approaching the stage of setting meaningful targets as work was continuing at speed. He also pointed out that the proposed motions were already being incorporated into the developing Dorset Council Climate and Ecological Emergency strategy and action plan and would be addressed as part of the ongoing work of the council’s Task and Finish groups.

The panel were given an update on the progress of the groups by Dorset Council’s newly recruited Corporate Sustainability Officer, who let attendees know that the intention was for costed carbon reduction action plans to be developed to allow an informed decision on setting a zero-carbon target based on the scale of the work, available resources and funding.

Councillors were also presented with initial findings from the ongoing Call for Ideas. A range of suggestions were put forward – the most common being changes in the way Dorset Council runs its planning services, a push for renewable energy production and improvement of the county’s wild spaces and roadside verges. The Call for Ideas will run until the end of February, with a full summary of the findings due to be published in the Spring.

It was also decided that the forthcoming Inquiry Day – where people are invited to speak to the panel about their ideas to mitigate climate change – will be supplemented by a second session held on a different evening in order to ensure presenters have the best opportunity to attend. Details of the Inquiry Day sessions will be publicised shortly.

Finally, panel members welcomed the announcement that Dorset Council will be adopting the Balloon and Sky Lantern Release Policy originally implemented by authorities under the former Dorset Councils Partnership. The policy proposes that the intentional outdoor release of balloons and sky lanterns (“lanterns”) be classed an act of littering, and thereby to discourage such activities across Dorset and to completely prohibit releases from Council-owned land and premises.

Cllr Ray Bryan, chair of Dorset Council’s Climate Change Executive Advisory Panel, said: –

“When considering how Dorset Council’s services can reach a carbon-neutral state, we will be reviewing our services to carefully consider what we can do to reduce our emissions and then set a realistic but ambitious date to achieve carbon neutrality.

I accept that some people may have preferred us to set a target date first, but this is about making measurable and sustainable long-term changes. The forthcoming Dorset Council Plan 2020-24 demonstrates the extent to which our Climate Emergency declaration will affect the way we operate and deliver services in the future.

Our Climate Change strategy and action plan will clearly set out how we intend to do this as we move towards achieving net-zero carbon emissions. I’m excited for us to show everyone what we’re proposing in the coming months.”

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