By Richard Rout, Cabinet member for Environment and Public Protection
My Environment and Public Protection portfolio at the Council is incredibly diverse, it includes work with the Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service, Suffolk Trading Standards, Flooding and Planning matters.
However, the last few weeks have been dominated by environmental matters, which also fall under my watch, and I wanted to take this opportunity to share them with you.
We’ve seen national and local demonstrations by Extinction Rebellion, awards to recognise Suffolk’s environmental champions and the Council’s Cabinet agreeing the next steps following our recent Climate Emergency declaration.
What is Creating the Greenest County?
When it comes to the environment, much of what we do at the Council comes under the “Creating the Greenest County” aspiration, a term you will hear us talk about a lot, but may not be entirely sure what it’s all about.
Back in 2007, Lord Deben (then John Gummer MP for Suffolk Coastal), launched the “Creating the Greenest County” partnership in Suffolk. It acts as an umbrella for local authorities, projects, businesses and communities across the county who are responding to climate change, reducing carbon emissions and protecting the environment by changing the way they work.
Awards and celebration
Lord Deben is now Chairman of the UK's independent Committee on Climate Change, and I was excited that he could join us as a guest speaker at our recent Carbon Charter celebration event on 4 July. The Carbon Charter, launched in 2010, is an award for businesses to work towards to show their commitment to reducing their carbon emissions.
We have just presented the 500th award and I’d encourage any Suffolk business to get in touch to discover the savings, both financially and environmentally, that you can make.
Last week, I was incredibly proud to open the inspirational Creating the Greenest County awards on 17 July. It was last hosted in 2016 and the first that I have attended as a Cabinet member. If you get the opportunity to attend any awards ceremony, I thoroughly recommend it. The atmosphere was inspiring and new relationships were made. It encouraged me to know that there are hundreds, if not thousands, of people in Suffolk determined to reduce carbon emissions and protect our environment. My congratulations again to all those nominated and, of course, the winners.
Climate Emergency in Suffolk
Whilst it is important to acknowledge the efforts made by local businesses, communities and individuals and supporting them to achieve their goals - I appreciate that, as the Council, we need to lead the way and be a positive example.
So, since declaring a Climate Emergency in March, I have focused my efforts on how we can achieve our ambitions of being a carbon neutral authority by 2030. I am pleased to say that last week, Cabinet unanimously agreed my paper to get policy agreed so that we can drive forward with this. It will mean all Council departments considering carbon reduction in everything they do, from Suffolk Highways to Public Health.
I can now press ahead with setting up a Policy Development Panel – essentially a group of colleagues from across all political parties who will engage with and listen to representatives from communities, businesses and schools. These Panels are designed to help deliver short, sharp activity, not just talking about plans which are years in the making.
I understand the frustration that such things take time, but as a local authority we have a democratic process that must be followed.
However, this doesn’t mean we’re just starting to tackle climate change issues now. The Council has been leading a variety of environmental projects for many years and I’m proud of its achievements and ambitions.
Collaboration across Suffolk is crucial and we will continue to work with borough and district councils, communities and businesses. This brings me back to our Creating the Greenest County partnership – it’s an ambition we should all be proud of and can work towards.
I would also like to extend my thanks to representatives from Extinction Rebellion East Suffolk and Ipswich, who accepted my invitation to meet last month. We share ambitions and naturally have some differences, but I hope that this relationship continues to grow. Their peaceful protest ahead of last week’s full Council meeting followed on from the national protests you have no doubt seen in the media. We all share the same planet, and county, and with everyone pulling together I’m confident we can make Suffolk an even greener and cleaner place to live.
The Council and Suffolk as a whole, have done a lot to reduce carbon emissions and are highly regarded in the UK for this work. But now is the time to move up through the gears. There is lots more to do, we all have responsibility, but I’m determined that Suffolk County Council can lead the way and bring about further change.
Visit www.greensuffolk.org to find out more about what has already been achieved in Suffolk.