‘Tackling climate change is something that we must all take responsibility for’ says Councillor Richard Rout

Last week was incredibly significant for Suffolk and how we combat climate change. At Suffolk County Council’s cabinet meeting, we unanimously approved a huge list of actions to reduce the council’s carbon emissions in response to the climate emergency that we declared last year. This will help us towards our ambition of being a “net zero” organisation by 2030.

Being “net zero” means that the council will seek to eliminate the amount of carbon it puts into the air. Where this isn’t completely achievable, we will reduce it as much as possible.

In practice, this means changing our energy tariffs to 100% renewable energy, replacing all our petrol and diesel cars with electric ones or storing energy from our own solar panels.

There are dozens of changes that the council will now get underway, and I’m really proud to have had them approved. We can now get on and do them, rather than just talk about them.

It cannot be understated what a big change this will mean for the council and all its staff. But although these are changes happening within the four walls at Suffolk County Council, I want us to lead by example and encourage other people and businesses to bring about similar change.

There are some fantastic individuals and organisations in Suffolk who are already drastically cutting their carbon emissions, you just have to see some of the work being done by previous winners of our Creating the Greenest County awards.

The children and staff at Birchwood Primary School always spring to my mind for the way in which the environment is at the heart of what they do. I visited them just before we declared our climate emergency, and they think of everything – from growing and selling their own fruit, veg and eggs, to having a team of monitors who ensure lights are switched off and doors are shut, to save carbon emissions and energy.

Whether it is at work or at home, we have projects and schemes to encourage and support you to also reduce your carbon emissions:

- BEE Anglia can fund ways for your business to be more energy efficient

- Suffolk Carbon Charter can assess your business to suggest ways to reduce carbon emissions

- Renewable Energy Fund can provide the capital cost for installing solar panels

- Plug In Suffolk is installing the UK’s first fully open fast charging network in Suffolk for electric vehicles

- Solar Together Suffolk will be opening again soon so you can have solar panels installed at home at a competitive price

- Suffolk Energy Action will fund first-time central heating systems

- Warm Homes Healthy People helps vulnerable people and families make their homes warmer and cheaper to heat

Visit www.greensuffolk.org for more details on these and other projects

Tackling climate change is something that we must all take responsibility for, in both our personal and professional lives.

Lastly, but by no means least, the council’s cabinet also passed a very emotional motion, which will see more trees planted in Suffolk, along with the founding of a “healing wood” to remember all those who have lost their lives to coronavirus.

Whilst working on reducing our carbon emissions, we must also continue to care for our natural world and its biodiversity. One of the ways we are doing this by planting trees in Suffolk – in just the last two seasons we have planted 40,000.

But I have ambitions to vastly increase this number, and in a responsible way. We are doing this with the “right tree, right place” approach, to ensure that trees are correctly located and managed in the future. We’ll look at where we plant trees on our own property, but also work closely with landowners to restore and replant hedgerows and field corner copses. We’ll do this by creating the Suffolk Tree Partnership to bring together the knowledge of relevant stakeholders to pool expertise and resources.

But most significantly, we cannot let this time of loss pass without leaving a tribute to all those who have lost their lives as a result of the pandemic. With nature providing an escape and a sanctuary for many, we are now exploring the creation of a healing wood or woodland here in Suffolk.