My first New Year’s visit to Hampshire County Council was to attend a Cabinet meeting where progress on the council’s Climate Change Strategy and Action Plan was reported. The strategy is based on “stretching but achievable” targets to 2050, in line with the national target, with an eye to bringing that target forward, if assessed as realistically and effectively attainable.
Only 1% of emissions from Hampshire come from the activities of the county council itself, so it will require close partnering with bordering counties, district, town and parish councils, community groups, businesses and residents to achieve carbon neutrality for the Hampshire area by 2050.
The county council will be looking to early action by the government to guide on larger scale projects, such as a new recycling system. HCC’s Local Transport Plan will be reviewed, plus new, robust and sustainable planning policies developed, in liaison with districts, to encourage less car dependency. The council has also taken advice from Forestry England, The Woodland Trust and Plantlife and will invest significantly in tree and wildflower planting on Highways verges and amenity land to support insects and wildlife, funded by the sale of surplus Highways land.
Community resilience and preparing the county for expected changes in climate will also be a vital part of the council’s strategy. Autumn 2019 was the wettest autumn for more than 100 years, creating exceptionally high ground water levels. HCC will be prioritising an early review of its Flood Risk Management Strategy, given the county’s considerable coastline and river networks.
However, council actions will have limited impact unless local businesses and households make changes. I prefer to think of these changes simply as: helping wildlife; reducing waste; reducing pollution. So, when I visit a garden centre, I choose plants that support insects – and I’m going to feed the birds in my garden more regularly. Rather than buy new shampoo, I refill a bottle at The Naked Pantry plastic-free shop in New Milton – and I am going to write to my local supermarkets to ask if they can reduce the plastic-wrapped food they sell. And though I haven’t yet got an electric car, I take the train more often – and I’m going to dust off my bike from the shed… I’m not perfect yet, but I’m having a go! There are many lists of simple changes you can make, if you google.
I’ve recently set up the ‘New Forest Environment Alliance’ on Twitter and Facebook, to encourage more residents to join in local environmental projects this year. Please follow. Or join or donate to one of the hard-working existing conservation groups who quietly get on with improving our local environment (and have done for many years!) such as Milford Conservation Volunteers. Let’s all make an Action Plan in 2020! Happy New Year.
(Read Hampshire County Council’s interim Climate Change report here and watch the full Cabinet discussion here at 24 mins. You may also find other agenda items of interest. Subscribe to HCC’s YouTube channel to be notified of future live meeting broadcasts.)Cllr Fran Carpenter