South Hams Climate Action Network

Here is the reply from the leader of South Hams District Council following the SHCAN open letter to the Council about climate change and the ‘Networks’ follow up reply.

If you had any capacity or time before Christmas there is a full council meeting on 17th December for which you can send in questions via this link (by 14th December)

27/11/2020; Judy Pearce on behalf of SHDC to Barbara Phillips on behalf of SHCAN; by email

Dear Mrs Phillips

Thank you for your email and the attached letter.  I would be grateful if you would pass this reply on to the many signatories.  You are aware that we have  set up a Community Forum and I believe you are a member of it.  The first meeting is now only a couple of weeks away.  The aim for this is to set up a meaningful dialogue with a broad cross section of influential members from all walks of the community.

We have a target to reach net zero by 2050 as a District, but timelines are notoriously difficult calculate even when focussing only on what we can directly  influence. By way of illustration, the graph below is an emissions reduction timeline for the area taken from the Tyndall Centre

Obviously, we have little direct control over achieving this, let alone taking ownership of it ourselves. So theoretically we could include a timeline, but  we’d only be setting ourselves up to fail if we did.

The Devon Carbon Plan will include quantified carbon amounts for action interventions as well as budget intervals. Given the amount of resources thrown behind  the Devon Carbon Plan, to which we are partners, it would make sense to defer to this plan, as the success of the Devon Carbon Plan, along with its aim for the County to become net zero by 2050, will be reliant, in great part, on partner organisations anyway.

Most importantly though, the Committee on Climate Change recently reported to Parliament in June in its ‘Reducing UK Emissions: 2020 progress report to Parliament’.  On page 192, box 6.1, the committee reiterated that:

‘’The Committee previously called for local authorities to draw up low-carbon plans which include a high level ambition for emissions reduction by focusing  on drivers of emissions over which they have influence (e.g. number of homes insulated, car miles travelled). At the time, we recommended that it would not be appropriate for local authorities to set (or be set) binding carbon budgets given the multiple drivers  of emissions, many of which are beyond their control.’’

Within the Committee’s Sixth Carbon Budget report, which is due to be published in a matter of weeks, they are intending to produce an accompanying publication  on local delivery for local authorities. This is expected to include recommendations for local authorities with data and resources to aid decision-making, including early no-regrets actions for the 2020s and timelines for the 2030s. We can have regard to this  advice when it is published and use this as part of a refresh of the strategy once the Interim Devon Carbon Plan is completed and adopted. The main thing though that we wish to re-iterate is that our own Climate Change and Biodiversity Strategy  is a first version to set a baseline and act as a starting point for what we can do as an authority to tackle to Climate Emergency. It will continue to evolve over time.

Our climate change officer recently attend a webinar where the slide below was shown.  It is expected this will form the basis of the advice for local authorities  in the Sixth Carbon Budget Report.

Given what our draft Strategy and Action Plan seeks to do, we are not far off this, but perhaps some more could be done on embedding climate action in decision  making and better project readiness.

You are seeking more meaningful public engagement which is what we hope to achieve through the Community Forum.  We can also through the Forum explore further  options for a wider network across the district independent of the Council to help promote and co-ordinate actions.   We are proposing to get the principles of how the climate change reserve of £400k should be allocated agreed very shortly.

Finally, I need to reiterate that whilst we can provide leadership and provide an example, many actions to achieve carbon neutrality in our district are completely  beyond the scope and control of what a local authority can do.  This will rely on winning hearts and minds, along with many local projects set up and run by local groups.  It is our intention to allocate part of the Climate Change Reserve to such local projects,  so that they can provide an example and inspiration to others in the district.

I hope this goes some way to providing you with reassurance.

Kind regards


Here is the South Hams Climate Change Network’s reply:

Dear Councillor Pearce and the Members of South Hams District Council,

Thank you for your swift response to our open letter. We are heartened by your willingness to engage in an honest and open discussion about the actions that we must take in the South Hams to meet the Climate and Biodiversity Emergency. We also recognise that we cannot expect our elected representatives to solve this problem alone, and that we are all going to have to work together on this and make it a priority to implement the solutions. 

As regards targets and timelines, we accept that it might be counterproductive to make targets and timelines for the reduction of carbon emissions you have no control over. It is essential, however, to provide targets and timelines for the actions that the Council and its partners can take that will lead to some reduction of carbon emissions in our area. The Council needs to be able to evaluate the success of its own Action Plan. Most important is to focus on what actions will be taken by the Council and its partners this year in order to reduce emissions, and those each year thereafter for the next decade, for example, to quantify the number of houses that will be supported to be retrofitted.

We believe that engagement will be key to achieving the aims of the Climate and Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan. Firstly, the full engagement of the Council members and officers in aligning all its plans, policies and activities.  Secondly, engagement with the public.  We therefore welcome your expressed aim that you “hope to achieve more meaningful public engagement through the Community Forum”. We are unclear how the Community Forum will contribute to public engagement. Will the content or recommendations of its meetings be made public? What opportunities will there be for other South Hams residents, not selected for this forum, to engage with the Council? 

There is a great opportunity here to demonstrate real engagement with the public by each Councillor working with their own communities in local community forums,which are then represented in the district Community Forum. The Council has a role in alerting and educating residents to the challenges of sea level rise, biodiversity loss and food insecurity that climate change will bring. The Council could disseminate information through pop ups in various town shops/village halls/libraries and gather ideas and knowledge from the community, while providing practical information to residents, such as on grants for home retrofitting.

The signatories to our open letter demonstrate the level of concern among many people representing organisations and businesses across the South Hams for the vital work needing to happen now, and who want to see rapid, effective change. We would welcome your views on how the Council will bring in these wider voices and tap into their expertise and skills. The Community Forum does not seem to fulfill this role.  

We offer the open letter and this follow-up in a spirit of constructive engagement. We hope that everyone in the South Hams will realise the danger that lies ahead for us all in the coming years and that we must all work together and with you to face and overcome the difficulties ahead. We have sent out your letter along with a copy of this response letter to those who supported our initial open letter.     

Kind regards

Barbara Phillips (on behalf of SHCAN)

If you have any thoughts you wish to share with us as a result please reply to this email and we will take them on board. But there is no necessity to reply. Also, if you had any capacity or time before Christmas there is a full council meeting on 17th December for which you can send in questions via this link (by 14th December)

Thanks for your continued support.

Kind regards

Peter Scott
07896 276577
on behalf of SHCAN
South Hams Climate Action Network

FOSH © 2021

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