Climate and sustainability ‘at the heart of all our decision making’

Lewes District Council has launched a climate change and sustainability strategy that will ensure that the council is net zero carbon and fully climate resilient by 2030 and supports the district to reach the same targets.

The strategy follows 18 months of exhaustive work auditing the council and wider district’s carbon footprint and extensive consultation with individuals and organisations across East Sussex through a series of sustainability panels involving experts in the field and the Climate Action Forum.

Councillor Matt Bird ( pictured), Cabinet Member for Sustainability, said:

“We declared a climate emergency in July 2019 and this kickstarted a whole organisational change which now places sustainability and climate change considerations at the heart of all our decision making.

“The Climate Change and Sustainability Strategy provides a comprehensive evidence base for carbon emissions in both the council and the district and underpins the many actions laid out in the action plan and sets out the pathway to a Climate resilient future in the district.”

The analysis undertaken shows that buildings and transport are the largest sources of emissions. The council’s emissions for 2018/19 were 1,590 tonnes CO2, compared to 458,000 tonnes (based on 2017 data) for the district as a whole.  A detailed agriculture and land use study was also undertaken, with findings detailed in the strategy.

Councillor Bird added:

“What this data shows is that while the challenges are great, opportunities for the council to facilitate change and lead by example are within our grasp and we are determined to seize them. 

“Alongside the many climate challenges we face, there is also an ecological emergency to address. Nature-based solutions and a more climate-aware use of land is a major issue to address.”                                                                                             Two other examples of collaborative work already taking place are Ouse Valley CARES and the Sussex Flow Initiative.

Ouse Valley CARES is a climate change partnership formed of local organisations and community groups, including Lewes District Council and the South Downs National Park, and is developing a whole range of community projects tackling climate change along the Ouse Valley.

The Sussex Flow Initiative is a natural flood management project in the River Ouse catchment, and is a partnership between Sussex Wildlife Trust, the Woodland Trust, the Environment Agency and Lewes District Council.  The project has seen the planting of more than 2,800 trees and shrubs and the creation of nearly 150 natural leaky dams last year.

Councillor Bird said:

“We have nine years to make the changes needed to stay within a 1.5 degree temperature rise. It’s a massive challenge and a certain amount of climate change is locked in regardless, but it is possible. Changes in attitude and behaviour happened overnight in response to the Covid-19 crisis.

“Flexible home working, reduced car use and more walking and cycling led to improved air quality, an appreciation of quieter roads, a greater affinity with nature and an enhanced sense of community cohesion and despite the tragedies of the pandemic gave us a glimpse of a less carbon -intensive world.”.

To view the full Climate Change and Sustainability Strategy and Action Plan please visit www.lewes-eastbourne.gov.uk/climatechange