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How is Devon doing on the environment and climate change?

  • by JW

“Scientists remind councillors they have declared a climate emergency, and ask that decisions taken at the council meeting reflect that position.”


The county council has a lot of policies around the enviornment, as covered in these news pages:

Devon aims to be carbon neutral by 2030 – Vision Group for Sidmouth

More charging points in Devon? – Vision Group for Sidmouth

New cycle lanes and wider pavements: ‘pop-ups’ for Devon – Vision Group for Sidmouth

Saving Devon’s Treescapes – how to get involved – Vision Group for Sidmouth

But how ambitious and how realistic does this amount to?

The council has its own dedicated policy, where it does ask itself a good question:

How are we doing?

Progress against the environmental objectives of the Environmental Policy are reported in the annual Environmental Performance Statement which includes a detailed Greenhouse Gas Report. We’ve also produced this infographic to illustrate how we’re doing.

The Environmental Performance Board meets quarterly to monitor progress of the projects we are implementing to improve our performance. Recent Highlight Reports that the Board receives are available below:

January – April 2020
April – July 2020

Environmental policy – Environment

The local democracy reporter Daniel Clark has just looked at how the county is performing:

Last July, Devon County Council’s Environmental Performance Board were mandated to look into how the ten actions that were proposed by East Devon councillor Claire Wright could be addressed. More than a year on, Cllr Wright, asked a full council meeting for an update on the progress on the actions resulting from the plan…

Otter Valley Councillor calls for update on green action plan |

But on closer inspection, and looking beyond the usual language, it doesn’t look more than recruiting an ecologist, promoting dark skies and planting trees:

Examples of recent progress that had been made, Cllr Roger Croad, cabinet member for environmental services said, included the recruitment to a new ecologist position to help provide the required capacity to take forward actions from the DCC Pollinators Action Plan, and that Local Nature Partnership work on October Dark Skies Week will raise awareness of the impacts of lighting on insects and promote actions that people can take.

“Work is progressing well, with significant input from the county council, on the Development Phase of ‘Saving Devon’s Treescapes’, with the first tree planting events starting in October. The council is working closely with other local authorities, the Woodland Trust, Local Nature Partnership and others to secure national funding to progress a ‘Trees for Devon’ initiative, which aims to increase tree cover in the county.”

Progress made on climate change action plan proposed by Claire Wright | Sidmouth Herald

The council’s own Environmental Performance Highlight Report (the latest being from July) shows that progress has happened, but much still has to be done, by their own admission:

Environmental Performance Highlight Report April – July 2020 – Environment

Its more ambitious sounding climate policies have several ‘outcomes’ planned:

Devon Climate Emergency – Creating a resilient, net-zero carbon Devon – where people and nature thrive.

And yet whilst this policy aims to “Facilitate the reduction of carbon emissions to net-zero by 2050 at the latest” (what is ‘net zero’?), this time last year it was aiming to be ‘carbon neutral’ (which is what?) by 2030:

Devon County Council aims to be carbon neutral by 2030 – News centre

It is confusing and some would say hardly adequate:

“Scientists remind councillors they have declared a climate emergency, and ask that decisions taken at the council meeting reflect that position.”

Devon climate scientists want more road closures – Radio Exe

Call to make Exeter ‘zero-emissions city’ & ‘SW electric bike capital’

Is the “Net Zero” Exeter plan fit for purpose? Part I: Exeter’s carbon footprint – Exeter Observer

Blog: Will behaviour change be key to the success or failure of the circular economy? – Circular Online