Lancashire County Council’s cabinet member for environment and climate change has been invited to a series of discussions as part of a contingent led by the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership. County Cllr Shaun Turner will spend two days at the high-profile gathering next week.
The early focus of the summit has been on the carbon-reduction pledges being made by global leaders during its opening two days, but a total of 30,000 delegates will attend across the two-week duration of the conference.
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County Cllr Turner says that he hopes to use his visit to ensure Lancashire is not overlooked when it comes to government investment in green infrastructure – and also to help it capture the “innovative new high-tech, low-carbon jobs” that will be needed to transform the economy.
However, he stressed that the nature of the challenge posed by climate change meant that different parts of the country would need to collaborate rather than compete in order to realise any of the commitments made by the UK.
“We need to be at the table getting those big infrastructure projects that we are going to need.
“But it’s not [a] competition, because climate change is everybody’s business. However, we do need to get our house in order and have a plan.”
County Cllr Turner told the Local Democracy Reporting Service that Lancashire would be shouting about the steps it had taken so far to help combat climate change – such as peat restoration projects on the outskirts of the Forest of Bowland and the conversion of all of the county’s streetlamps so that they operate with more energy efficient LED bulbs.
However, he said that the county was also keen to hear about “good practice” elsewhere.
To that end, the authority set up four environment commissions – exploring carbon reduction, renewables, climate resilience and the state of the environment. Draft reports have now been produced under each of those headings and are undergoing consultation before being published, possibly later this year.
“They look at where we are vulnerable – and [we have seen] a good example of that over the weekend with flood risk – but also [our] opportunities in renewables,” County Cllr Turner said
He added that the documents will provide a strong evidence basis for what Lancashire needs to do next – and he believes it should aim high when it comes to pitching for government cash, potentially as part of any “county deal” which finally delivers devolution for Lancashire.
“We have got to show ambition and then we have to really go for it [with] some of the bids that we put in. There will be some suggestions [in the report] about projects and where we will get the biggest impact [in order to reach] net zero.”
The county council was one of the first local authorities in the country to undertake an assessment of the state of its environment back in 1991. Thirty years later and that process has now been repeated – but the County Hall of 2021 has far greater capacity to act on its findings.
In addition to having a cabinet member dedicated to environmental and climate change issues, the authority has also begun to appoint officers to work specifically on the green agenda rather than the issue being “tagged onto people’s jobs”, County Cllr Turner said.
“The whole point of putting [the climate change] portfolio in place was because we knew we had a lot to do,” he admits.
Councillors responsible for the environment at Lancashire’s dozen district councils have also begun to meet their counterparts in other areas and at county level in what is hoped will become a regular discussion to direct Lancashire’s climate change efforts.