Gwynedd Council remains committed to hitting the Welsh Government’s target of a carbon neutral public sector by 2030 despite local efforts being sidetracked by the Covid-19 pandemic.
After declaring a climate emergency in March 2019, the authority announced plans to establish a dedicated Climate Change Action Plan.
A report presented to the authority’s Communities Scrutiny Committee on Thursday (September 23), noted that while the Coronavirus emergency had “interrupted” the ongoing work, efforts had continued in the field including the recent appointment of a Climate Change Programme Manager.
Having taken up her role in July 2021, members were told that the local Climate Change Board was now mapping all relevant council activities to draw together the action plan and to identify any gaps needing to be addressed.
Council leader Dyfrig Siencyn, addressing the committee, said: “I think it’s fair to say that climate change is the most important topic we as politicians can debate and we all share a determination to do all within our power to find solutions.
“It’s a complex issue and many of the answers, as we know, lay in the hands of leaders of the world’s major nations who are meeting in a fortnight in Glasgow as it happens, and we hope that such leadership is displayed at that conference.”
Pointing to efforts including the street light and signs replacement programme – which has seen the replacement of the bulbs with more energy efficient and cheaper to run LED technology – he said that a 76% reduction their carbon footprint had been recorded as a result.
It was also reported that grant funding will allow Gwynedd to soon take on its first electric powered recycling truck as the authority also explores the potential of hydrogen power as a means to overcome the difficulties posed by the county’s terrain, if moving away completely from vehicles dependant on fossil fuels.
“As a council as a whole our carbon emissions is down by 47% (compared to 2006) but we know that the pandemic has effected us all, but there is further work to do to reach net zero status by 2030 which is the Welsh Government’s target for local government,” added Cllr Siencyn.
“But the work of finding further reductions is getting harder as time goes on.”
Sophie Hughes, who took over the role of programme manager over the summer, acknowledged that “momentum had been lost” during the pandemic but was clear that work had now restarted.
She noted that the work would look at all council assets, including buildings and its vehicle fleet, and recognising any gaps that can be worked on.
It was hoped that the findings would be available in the new year, for adoption in time for the end of the 2021/22 financial year.
Cllr Mike Stevens, the councillor for Tywyn who had seconded Cllr Catrin Wager’s original motion calling for a climate change emergency declaration, stated his disappointment that the board was made up of cabinet members rather than representation from other groups and parties on the council.
“It seems that the process seems slightly closed,” he said.
“I was involved in the Tywyn coastal defence scheme in 2010 to mitigate against climate change, so I feel if we’re going to be effective as a council we need to draw on the expertise of those councillors that could assist us.”
Acknowledging Cllr Stevens’ point, Cllr Siencyn noted he would be open to extending the process to other voices within the chamber.
“This is a matter for all of us and we need to extend outwards, I agree,” Cllr Siencyn concluded.
The report was accepted by the committee.