Climate and ecological emergency briefing note 2022


It's been three years since we declared a climate and ecological emergency and our focus on reducing our climate impact remains central to our corporate plan, Creating Tomorrow Together. This report details our progress towards our ambitious goal of net zero emissions by 2030 and initiatives across the wider district.

Sometimes the scale of our climate crisis can feel overwhelming, so our Carbon Action Plan helps us structure our efforts to reduce emissions from our own buildings and operations. We know that creating significant change will take time, commitment and awareness which is why staff throughout the council have attended climate awareness training - learning skills that they can implement positively in their work on a daily basis.

This year we began work on our District-Wide Carbon Plan (DWCP) to encourage residents and businesses to do what they can to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. We aim to bring people together, through the newly formed Carbon Innovation Lab (CI-Lab), to help tackle these problems.

There is still much work to be done but we are delighted by how councillors, staff, businesses and individuals have come together to fight this most important of threats.

Council Leader Councillor David Monk and Cabinet Member for the Environment and Chair of the Climate and Ecological Emergency Working Group Councillor Lesley Whybrow.

Our Journey to Net Zero

As a council we are taking actions across a wide range of services to tackle our own carbon emissions and we are also working with others to look at emissions across the district as a whole. This briefing note provides an update on some of the projects we are delivering - insulating homes, providing electric vehicle charging points, installing solar panels, helping businesses to become more energy efficient and improving biodiversity - but this is only the start and there is more that we all need to do to tackle the climate challenge.

Carbon Action Plan

The starting point on our journey was the publication of a Carbon Action Plan in February 2021. The plan focuses on carbon emissions from the council's operations and the buildings within our direct control.  The plan sets out targeted actions in the following key areas: energy, behaviour change, transport, water, contracts and biodiversity/green space. Actions are set out over the short, medium, and longer terms to reduce emissions to net zero by 2030.  Some of the actions we are working on, or that we have completed, are set out below:

Short term

  • Training on tackling the climate emergency was given to managers and elected members by a climate change expert
  • 291 staff have completed the mandatory eLearning climate change module
  • A climate impact statement is included in all reports going to cabinet and full council to help members assess the climate impacts of major decisions
  • The use of plastic cups has been stopped for water coolers in our office buildings
  • Printers have been reduced from 14 to 6 in the Civic Centre, reducing the number of devices using power while on standby
  • A cycle-to-work scheme is in place with cycle training available
  • A  vehicle salary sacrifice scheme was launched in April 2022
  • Peat-free growing media is being used and 90% of summer bedding is now supplied peat free
  • Increasing carbon efficiency is now part of the requirement for all internal catering
  • 298 of the council's 321 adopted streetlights have been converted to LED lighting to save energy
  • A Climate Change Champions group has been set up - this is a network of staff interested in actively raising awareness of energy efficiency and reducing carbon emissions. The group has created an environmental calendar which encourages other staff to get involved
  • Teams at the council have been encouraged to choose and complete an environmental challenge together to do their bit for the environment. Challenges undertaken so far include litter picking and beach cleans

Medium term

  • The council encourages staff to work from home where they are able to do so. Bookable desks and meeting rooms with hybrid meeting equipment are available for use by all staff to minimise the number of commuting journeys
  • Climate change criteria are now being incorporated into procurement contracts so that, as far as possible, our suppliers also take measures to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions
  • Procurement staff regularly attend Kent County Council (KCC) procurement network meetings where best practices are discussed and shared

Long term

  • An updated strategic flood risk assessment is being prepared
  • A net zero toolkit is being drafted to provide guidance for developers and homeowners on how to eliminate carbon emissions in new build housing developments and refurbishment projects

While the actions listed above can all make a difference, the council's buildings, including the Civic Centre and sheltered housing buildings, account for most of our emissions. We are exploring the potential to relocate the council from the existing Civic Centre to reduce our carbon footprint, and we are also drawing up plans to tackle emissions from our council homes, including the sheltered housing buildings.

At the starting year, 2018/19, we calculated that the council's emissions were 1,535 tonnes of carbon dioxide. Results for the year 2020/21 indicate a small decrease of around 3.5% from the starting point, but with the Covid pandemic the last few years have been far from typical, and it is not clear whether there is any long-term trend.

The actions in the Carbon Action Plan may not get us to our target of net zero emissions so we are starting to update the plan - this will tell us how far we have come, what reductions our current projects will deliver and what more we may need to do to get us to our goal.

Reducing emissions from our council homes

The starting point to reducing emissions from our council homes is to understand the current condition of the homes. We have therefore completed a stock condition survey of the district's council homes to provide a comprehensive assessment of their condition. This highlights what work will need to be done to improve the energy efficiency of the homes and reduce their carbon emissions. 

We are committed to meeting government guidelines of improving energy efficiency in the council homes we manage to energy performance certificate (EPC) C rating by 2030 and net zero by 2050.

This work will include retrofitting existing council homes (3,400 homes in total), building new homes, and refurbishing any new homes we acquire. We aim to build and procure 300 new homes by 2026 and refurbish 1,000 homes by 2036. We will also work with our tenants to reduce the energy they use by making simple changes to how they use their homes and appliances.

The government's Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund is focused on upgrading the energy efficiency of social homes. The council applied for funding under Wave 1 of the scheme, and was awarded £1.9m, one of the highest awards of any district council in the country.

The target of this work is to improve the energy efficiency of homes to an energy performance certificate (EPC) band of at least C. Retrofitting all our council homes is a major challenge but one that the fund is enabling us to make a start on. Wave 1 of the project encompasses 109 of our most energy inefficient homes and Ross House in Folkestone. We are hoping to bid successfully for another round of funding when it becomes available.

Net Zero Toolkit

The council is also preparing a net zero toolkit to provide advice to those looking to deliver net zero low energy homes. We have commissioned architects Levitt Bernstein and sustainability specialists Elementa and Etude to deliver a practical, easy-to-follow guide for new build and retrofit projects.

This guide will be used by the council to achieve net zero carbon homes as part of our developments and will also be available to private developers and homeowners for their own projects. The toolkit will cover a range of steps from pre-planning through to construction.

District-wide Carbon Action Plan

The projects outlined above are focused mainly on our operations and buildings, however the council's carbon emissions are only a very small part of the overall picture. We estimate that the emissions from our estate and operations are about 0.4% of the total emissions coming from the whole district - the government estimates that emissions from Folkestone & Hythe district amount to 385,100 tonnes of carbon dioxide.

These emissions come from all the district's homes, vehicles, offices, factories, farms and other buildings and activities.

As a council, we have very limited control over these emissions and so we are developing a District-wide Carbon Action Plan to encourage the community to come together tackle the problem. While we can help bring individuals, communities and businesses together to reduce carbon emissions and adapt to climate change, it will be up to all of us to make these changes. 

Carbon Innovation Lab

As part of the District-wide Carbon Plan the council has formed a Carbon Innovation Lab. This is an informal group of invited stakeholders, including businesses, community groups and special interest groups, to share ideas and collaborate to promote and deliver low carbon initiatives.

Initially the group have decided to focus on transport and behaviour change. The behaviour change work will focus on identifying the hurdles to adopting low-cost carbon reduction behaviours in both vulnerable and 'able-to-pay' homes. This will also explore the mechanisms that are needed to convince people to act.
This work is currently in the research phase with a report anticipated in March 2023.

Local Authority Delivery Scheme

The Local Authority Delivery Scheme (LADS) is targeted at private sector homes and aims to raise energy efficiency for low income, vulnerable and low energy performance households delivered by Warm Works. Our district has been awarded £1.3m from the LADS scheme. Funding for the project is administered by the Greater South East Energy Hub.

The project focuses on homes with energy performance certificates of E, F or G. Actions as part of the scheme include installing insulation, renewable heating, double/triple glazing, energy efficient doors and heating controls.

Driving electric forward

We secured funding from Kent County Council from the Office for Low Emission Vehicles (OLEV) to provide charging points in every council car park. So far 53 electric vehicle charging points have been installed across 14 car parks in the district, while another 23 off-street charging points have also been provided by commercial businesses.

We are also investigating the possibility of working with KCC to deliver on-street charge points on lampposts across the district. We have committed £40k for the project with the remaining 75% of funds coming from central government.

In total 94 charging points are due to be installed across the district, making life easier for those with electric vehicles and providing the infrastructure to encourage others to follow suit.

Encouraging biodiversity

In addition to keeping our district looking beautiful, our grounds maintenance team also works to encourage wildlife and minimise the team's climate impact. Our district is home to some rare habitats and some rare species, including the short-haired bumble bee, late spider orchid and turtle dove.

Our green infrastructure strategy is being updated with climate change as a major cross-cutting theme. The strategy will tackle five main areas:

  • Biodiversity
  • Access
  • Health
  • Blue infrastructure (such as rivers, canals and ponds)
  • Landscape character

An action plan is currently being drafted which will go out to public consultation shortly.

Biodiversity at Otterpool Park

The Otterpool Park development is being designed to protect, minimise and mitigate the impact of the project on the environment.

Half of the development will be green open space with existing habitats retained, protected and enhanced where possible. The scheme is being designed with landscape and green infrastructure fully integrated into the development and over half the area will be green open space. Green corridors will be built into the scheme to link spaces across the site, promote healthy lifestyles and protect and enhance habitats. A biodiversity action plan is also being developed to increase biodiversity on the site by 20%.

Green Business Grant

A new green grant is being offered to businesses across the district. The £250K scheme is aimed at businesses within the district that want to invest in more energy-efficient ways of working. These grants are available to businesses in the low-carbon and environmental goods and services sector (LCEGS).

The aim of the grants is to help businesses reduce their carbon footprint and funding of up to £25K is available to provide not more than 40% of the total investment.

Strategic Flood Risk Assessment

We are currently updating the 2015 strategic flood risk assessment. The update is being undertaken by the Waterman Group, a firm of engineers and scientists. The revised assessment will evaluate flood risks from all sources - rivers, the sea, surface water, reservoirs and sewers - and take into account the predicted impacts of climate change.
The resulting information will be used in the planning application process, the new local plan, emergency planning and to inform local flood mitigation works.

Solar Together Kent

Folkestone & Hythe District Council is taking part in a group-buying scheme for solar panels and battery storage, in partnership with Kent County Council and the other Kent councils. Solar Together Kent will help to deliver carbon savings to homeowners and small to medium sized businesses across the district. Interest in the scheme has been high, and the contractors are currently undertaking surveys and installing panels on homes and premises across the county.

At the start of August this year, 332 installations had been completed across Kent, with 33 installations completed in Folkestone & Hythe district. Many more installations will be undertaken throughout the summer and autumn and there could be up to 2,000 installations across Kent by the time the scheme is complete at the end of the year.

For more information on any of the climate action work please contact our Low Carbon Senior Specialist