Climate campaigners, including the ‘Grandmothers for Climate Action', from across Wiltshire gathered at County Hall, Trowbridge, on Tuesday 20 February, to mark the 5th anniversary of Wiltshire Council’s acknowledgment of the climate emergency in Wiltshire.

With placards, speeches, and drums they delivered the message to the Council that there is so much more to do to ensure the Council’s operations are carbon-neutral by 2030, let alone the goal of achieving a carbon-neutral Wiltshire by the same date.

The Paris Agreement target of limiting global heating to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels has been breached for the first time in a full year. This serves as a warning that the necessary efforts to radically decarbonise are not being pursued with sufficient urgency. Wiltshire Climate Alliance, in the spirit of acting as a critical friend to the Council, is pressing for increased ambition and effective delivery of the measures set out in its own reports and action plan. 

Richard Clewer, Leader of Wiltshire Council, and Nick Holder, Cabinet Member for Environment and Climate Change, came out to speak to the rally and took questions. They welcomed the scrutiny being applied by Wiltshire Climate Alliance and gave an update on their perspective of the situation. 

Wiltshire Climate Alliance co-founder and steering group member, Bill Jarvis, from Dilton Marsh, said: '" In 2019, Wiltshire Council, in a landmark 7 hour Council meeting, acknowledged that there is a climate emergency, pledging to make Wiltshire Council carbon neutral by 2030 and seeking to do the same for the County of Wiltshire.5 years on, 5 years of more unpredictable weather, floods and heat waves, overflowing drains, drought and increased energy costs.

"The Council developed a climate team, had major consultancies give advice and produce schedules of what is needed; and then produced an action plan to address at least some of the issues. But there is more, much more that needs to be done.

"To this end, WCA is now working in partnership with the Council to address issues like warm homes, which have become a part of daily discussions. Over 100,000 dwellings needing better insulation and more efficient heating, the Council have tackled 100. Of the 1,000 new low carbon council houses promised, in 5 years, they’ve just started building the first 18. Only 982 to go within 6 years!

"On the bright side the upcoming Wiltshire and Swindon Green Open Homes event is an example of positive partnership which we'd like to see more of."'

Richard Ecclestone, 61, an Extinction Rebellion and Wiltshire Climate Alliance activist, said, '"I know the Council has been deprived of resources by the Government, however the climate and nature emergencies are not going away, and mitigating their devastating impacts must be a priority. We owe it to future generations to be the best ancestors that we can be. They will not forgive us for failing to take the necessary action, when we knew from the science what the consequences would be if we didn’t."'

Cllr Nick Holder, Cabinet Member for Climate Change, said: “With the council’s impressive track record to date of decreasing emissions, there is real cause to celebrate the achievements we’ve made over the past five years. However, we’re not complacent and we know there is more to be done to achieve our pledge to become carbon neutral as an organisation by 2030, and to seek to make the rest of the county carbon neutral as well. We know this isn’t something we can do alone, and we’ll need to work collaboratively with residents and businesses across Wiltshire.

“Our achievements to date include but are not limited to, reducing the council’s greenhouse gas emissions by 85% since 2014, switching to LED street lighting resulting in a huge reduction in energy consumption equivalent to 2000tonnes of CO2e, rolling out our new fleet of fully electric council vehicles, and over £10m invested in our Property Carbon Reduction Programme together with £5m secured in government grants to decarbonise the heat and power of our buildings by installing solar panels, heat pumps and LED lighting.

“We’re also increasing our delivery to support the rest of the county to become carbon neutral and we’ve made good progress already with schemes such as Solar Together to support household clean electricity generation and the Home Upgrade Grant (HUG) project which enables residents to access grants to improve energy efficiency in homes that are not connected to the gas grid.

“While we are absolutely focused on decarbonisation of both the council and the county, we must also acknowledge and plan for the current and future impacts of climate change. We’re doing this by updating our Climate Adaptation Plan to make sure we can keep on delivering our council services despite the changes to the climate and working in partnership with residents and organisations across the county to support emergency planning and response to help vulnerable people, nature and infrastructure be prepared and more resilient.”

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