Elmbridge is ramping up sustainability efforts to fight climate change
Human-induced climate change and the negative impact it has on the planet have become one of the biggest challenges of our time, affecting regions all around the world, including the UK. Increasing energy production, deforestation, transportation, manufacturing of goods, food production, and overconsumption are some of the factors that contribute to and perpetuate this issue. It is estimated that the use of fossil fuels alone accounts for nearly 75% of global greenhouse gas emissions and almost 90% of total carbon dioxide emissions.
The effects of climate change are wide-ranging, going from hotter temperatures and extreme weather events to increased drought, rising sea levels, loss of biodiversity, food scarcity, and so on. The pace and scale of these pressing issues that threaten the health and future of our planet call for urgent action.
A crisis that concerns everyone
Since climate change is an issue that transcends borders and affects every country on every continent, tackling it effectively requires local actions and solutions that need to be coordinated at an international level. It’s therefore more important than ever for local communities to get involved in the race against climate change and do their part to reduce the negative impact of human activities on the environment.
In the UK, there’s an ever-growing number of initiatives and organisations that work hard to protect nature and pave the path for sustainable development. There are plenty of enterprises with locations around the UK focused on helping individuals and businesses of all shapes and sizes reduce their carbon footprint.
In 2018, the 25-Year Environment Plan was published, outlining the Government’s actions to protect and restore the natural world based on a set of 10 ambitious goals:
● Clean air
● Delivering clean and plentiful water
● Creating a thriving ecosystem
● Reducing and preventing risks from environmental hazards
● Ensuring a more responsible and efficient use of natural resources
● Enhancing beauty, heritage and engagement with the natural environment
● Addressing climate change
● Waste reduction
● Minimising exposure to chemicals and toxic substances
● Improving biosecurity
The Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs also puts out regular updates and reports on the progress towards meeting the objectives set out in its 25-Year Environment Plan, with the Environmental Improvement Plan (EIP) 2023 for England being the first revision of the 25YEP.
Elmbridge is fighting for greater sustainability amid climate change crisis
Now, let’s turn our attention to Elmbridge and see how things are playing out at the local level. After declaring a climate emergency back in 2019, environmental efforts in the borough seem to have picked up pace. A series of solutions and actions have been implemented by the local council in this respect under the Sustainable Elmbridge initiative and Vision 2030. The plan is to establish strategic partnerships and leverage the power of the local community to lay the foundation for a thriving and more sustainable Elmbridge and ensure a greater quality of life for residents and visitors.
In order to deliver on its vision for a sustainable Elmbridge and effectively address climate change, the council has focused their efforts on four main areas of concern, as follows:
Switching to cleaner energy
With fossil fuels being major contributors to climate change, switching to renewable energy sources emerges as a priority. So far, as part of the pledge to become a carbon-neutral organisation by 2030, the Elmbridge Borough Council in partnership with Places Leisure has installed 973 solar panels at the Xcel Leisure Complex in Walton-on-Thames. This should help reduce the council’s energy consumption on site by up to 40% and save up to 75 tonnes of CO2 per year.
The council has also carried out solar panel installation in several other locations, including Centres for the Community in Walton, Cobham, Claygate and Molesey, with plans to have solar panels installed at the Hersham Centre for the Community next year.
Reducing carbon emissions in business
Regardless of industry or niche, all businesses engage in activities that produce carbon emissions. The transformations that businesses need to undergo in order to reduce their carbon emissions pose a wide range of challenges, making it very difficult especially for small and medium-sized firms to tackle the issue all on their own.
The Elmbridge Borough Council comes in support of businesses looking to reduce their carbon footprint with the Green Business Boost fund. This gives companies of all sizes and in all fields of activity in Elmbridge the possibility to earn grants and invest in equipment and solutions that will boost their sustainability. Therefore, local enterprises will be able to reduce their environmental impact while also saving money in the long run.
Improving air quality
Improving air quality is another major point on the sustainability agenda for the Elmbridge Borough Council. In February 2023, they launched #IdleFreeElmbridge, a campaign that brings the issue of idling to the public’s attention and raises awareness of its negative effects on air quality.
With the EV revolution well on its way, efforts have also been made to encourage the use of electric cars in Elmbridge. EV owners now benefit from electric vehicle charging points in car parks in Esher, Weybridge and Cobham, and soon in Walton-on-Thames.
In addition, the council also plans to decarbonise its entire fleet of vehicles by 2023, as stated in the Green Fleet Strategy 2030.
The council has also taken steps towards biodiversity conservation and the protection of local ecosystems. Via a parentship with NatureSpace, the council has been able to implement measures to protect the local population of great crested newts and ensure proper habitats for this species of amphibians on Desborough Island.
Creating a more sustainable future is no easy feat, but in the current context of accelerating climate risks and environmental issues, walking the path of sustainability is the only way forward. As long as local organisations like Elmbridge Borough Council are willing to take effective and consistent measures in this respect and collaborate with international institutions on addressing these issues, we still have a chance to leave the world a better place than how we found it.