supercharging carbon neutrality through symposia

 

The recent Carbon Neutrality Symposium organised by the Eastbourne Eco Action Network CIC (EEAN CIC) held at Eastbourne Town Hall on Saturday 20th April 2024 is hopefully the start of a regular series of annual symposia to review and reinvigorate the drive towards a carbon neutral Eastbourne by 2030, as mandated by Eastbourne Borough Council’s Climate Emergency Declaration of July 2019.

The Eastbourne Borough Council (EBC) Climate Lead, Councillor James Murray, opened the proceedings and made the point that EBC’s performance on its Climate Emergency Strategy could be usefully compared with other similar councils through the Climate Emergency UK scorecards.

These scorecards, completed for every single UK council, is a mine of useful, granular data about how councils are doing on climate action and a very useful source for EBC to use for its proposed review and refresh of its Climate Emergency Strategy, which will be updated by the end of 2024.

Kate Richardson, Sustainability Lead Officer for EBC, gave a short presentation on where Eastbourne as a borough currently is with regards to carbon neutrality and what the challenges are for the town in reaching that target by 2030. The main challenge is to speed up the borough-wide carbon emissions reduction from its present 6% or 7% reduction per year to more than 12% per year if Eastbourne is to meet its fair share of keeping global carbon reductions to no more than 1.5 degrees Centigrade as mandated by the UN IPCC COP21 Paris Agreement of 2015.

The keynote speaker for the day was Richard Garland from Gradient Consultants, an Eastbourne-based business. His inspirational speech and slideshow¬† presentation demonstrated the kind of example on sustainability, climate action, and Net Zero that all Eastbourne businesses could follow, and will need to follow eventually in any case, as more Net Zero legislation is applied to a wider range of businesses in the next few years in order to help meet the UK’s legally binding commitment under the Climate Change Act to achieve Net Zero by 2050. As Richard said, “As a business we are de-risking the need to meet current and future compliance requirements within our industry, and we are acknowledging the opportunities of the low carbon transition- the green economy”.

The results of the Carbon Neutral survey by the EEAN CIC were presented by Jill Shacklock, one of the directors of the EEAN CIC. The survey was very much a pilot study that will help inform a subsequent revised and enlarged survey later on. But the initial data reveals how some early wins can be made in advancing carbon neutrality in Eastbourne right now. For example, many people don’t know what the current Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) rating on their property is or how to find out what it is. The government has a website that gives the EPC rating for all UK properties that have one, and each rating includes info about what measures could be taken to improve the EPC rating.

Andrew Durling, a director of the EEAN CIC, gave a very brief introduction to two digital tools that can help local residents and organisations to both discover their carbon footprints and ways to reduce them significantly through simple, practical actions that can be taken right now. The first was Giki Zero and the second was small99. Both tools are free, and were presented as particularly user-friendly and easy to use. Giki Zero allows people to quickly find out their carbon footprint and then select actions which can help reduce it, each selection automatically recalculating the footprint to demonstrate progress towards the 2030 global average target for all citizens.

Small99 is particularly useful for small businesses and organisations of any kind that have little time and resources to devote to in-depth Net Zero action planning. Such planning will need to be demonstrated by all organisations, especially businesses (as Richard Garland’s keynote speech emphasised), over the coming years if they wish to maximise their chances of both complying with Net Zero legislation and in securing more business or funding from other organisations already in compliance with such legislation.

Breakout groups throughout the event allowed for networking and sharing of ideas about how Eastbourne’s carbon neutrality strategy could be improved.

Carbon offsetting is an important aspect of carbon neutrality, and one of Eastbourne’s major carbon offsetting and carbon sequestration schemes was developed by the Eastbourne United Nations Association, which had an information stall during the Symposium. This scheme is entirely administered by volunteers and many local organisations have made donations to it, including EBC.

A full overview of all the actions and initiative currently being undertaken or planned in Eastbourne to further the town’s carbon neutrality strategy can be seen on the One Planet Eastbourne community ecosystem platform developed by the EEAN CIC in collaboration with OnePlanet.

Interestingly, the recent local elections held on May 4th can be seen as a triumph for those candidates that campaigned for cleaner air, better active travel/public transport, and faster climate action. As Chris Skidmore, the UK government’s former Net Zero tsar, said, “These elections have shown pro-environment parties and mayors who made net zero central to their campaigns made significant gains”. The Eastbourne Carbon Neutrality 2030 campaign is unanimously supported by all borough councillors, and has popular support amongst the town’s residents, as the recent well-attended Carbon Neutrality Symposium, and the many other events mounted, or supported by, the Eastbourne Eco Action Network indicates.