The Climate and Biodiversity Emergency
Thanet District Council declared a climate emergency on Thursday 11 July 2019.
As part of this declaration the Council has resolved to:
- Do what is within our powers and resources to make Thanet District Council carbon neutral by 2030, taking into account both production and consumption emissions;
- Call on Westminster to provide the powers and resources to make the 2030 target possible;
- Continue to work with partners across the County and region to deliver this new goal through all relevant strategies;
- Investigate possible sources of external funding and match funding to support this
Why have we declared a climate emergency?
We have declared a climate emergency based on the scientific evidence. The research shows that the planet is warming up faster than at any other time in the Earth’s history due to greenhouse emissions produced by human activity. The effects of global warming are a threat to us all and we have a responsibility to help tackle it while there is still time to make a difference.
In October 2018, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published a report on the impact that a 1.5℃ increase to the average global temperature would have. The IPCC’s report shows that a world that is 1.5℃ warmer would have lower climate-related risks for both people and nature than a world which is 2℃ warmer. The level of global CO2 emissions has to reach net-zero by 2050 if we are to stay at or just over 1.5℃.
To achieve net-zero emissions fundamentally we need to reduce our fossil fuel use and swop to renewable sources of energy as quickly as possible.
We are fully supportive of the campaign to push the climate emergency to the top of the agenda. We are one of over 250 local authorities in the UK to have declared a climate and ecological emergency, as have NGOs worldwide and a number of international governments. The groundswell of people of all ages, calling for a new approach demonstrates that there is so much more that must be done.
As part of the climate emergency we have also acknowledged the ecological emergency. The Intergovernmental Science policy platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem services (IPBES) reports that globally one million animal and plant species are now threatened with extinction. Nature is declining at unprecedented rates and this decline will have impacts worldwide in relation to economies, livelihoods, food, health and quality of life.Permalink
What is global warming and what is causing it?
Global warming is caused by greenhouse gases that are released when we burn fossil fuels and when we farm large numbers of animals. Carbon dioxide is released when we burn fossil fuels and methane and nitrous oxide gas are released when we farm animals. These gases hold large volumes of heat inside our atmosphere and are warming the planet. This has started to cause heat waves, increased storms and extreme weather events already.
Natural Gas – used to cook at home if we have a gas cooker: we can see the flames when we cook.
Gas is also used in our boilers to heat water and for gas central heating. Natural gas enters our homes, it is burned in the boiler to heat water and the water is pumped around the house (using an electric pump) to radiators or bath/shower. It is harder to see the flame but we are often aware that the gas is being burnt to heat the water inside the boiler. Carbon dioxide and water are released into the atmosphere through the boiler flue pipe as waste products.
Petrol/diesel – We can clearly see the petrol/diesel as we pour it into our cars/vehicles.
The internal combustion engine burns the fuel to make the car move and the greenhouse gases (and other air pollutants) are released into the atmosphere through the exhaust pipe.
Most fossil fuel use however is out of sight:
Unseen fossil fuel use: It is harder to see how fossil fuels are used to produce electricity, especially when we simply plug our electrical items into the wall sockets and they just work!
Electricity is mainly produced by burning natural gas in power stations far from our houses (unless it is being produced from solar panels/wind farms now). The gas is burnt in the power station to turn water to steam. The steam turns a turbine and produces electricity which is transferred to our houses through cables. The burning of natural gas produces carbon dioxide and steam and is released into the atmosphere (in the same way our boilers do).
All of this burning of gas for heating, burning of petrol and diesel in our cars and burning of gas to produce electricity in power stations produces an invisible gas called carbon dioxide which is now in such high levels in the atmosphere that it is warming the planet at an unprecedented rate.
Meat production. Another gas called methane, which is a much stronger greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, is produced when cows and sheep eat. The more meat and diary we eat, the more methane is released from the farming industry. Furthermore, animal feed imports are driving deforestation in other parts of the world, for example in the Amazon. Trees are needed to absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and therefore mass farming of animals is exacerbating the increase in greenhouse gas levels and climate change.
Consumption: The final aspect of greenhouse gas production is completely unseen: This is the carbon footprint within the things we buy or services we purchase.Permalink
The amount of greenhouse gas production per individual or company is called their carbon footprint.
TDC’s carbon footprint is made up of:
- The gas and electricity use in offices and buildings
- Petrol/diesel use in our fleet
- Greenhouse gas emissions in our purchases and contracts.
An individual’s carbon footprint can be divided up into:
- Home energy use (gas and electricity)
- Transport use (petrol/diesel/ also now electricity)
- Food eaten (impacts of meat and dairy → methane)
- Things or services we buy (what was the greenhouse gas use in making a thing or providing you with a service?).
See later sections for tips on reducing your carbon footprint.
In the UK as a whole our carbon footprint is from residential and non residential buildings, power production, transport, land use and agriculture, industry and international aviation and shipping. Each sector will need to work towards a low carbon future (see figure below from the Climate Change Committee: )Permalink
What are the impacts of the climate and biodiversity emergency?
The impacts of climate change are devastating. As the world heats up as a result of human activity we’re seeing more extreme weather; increased rainfall and greater risk of flooding as well as hotter, drier summers and scarcity of water. This is starting to affect where we can live, how we grow our food and access to water. The biodiversity or ecological emergency is linked into the climate emergency. Hundreds of thousands of different species of animals and plants are facing extinction because of human activity, according to the United Nations. These species are part of the complex ecosystems which provide vital services humans depend on for survival, such as pollinators for example.
In Kent, the climate effects which will have the greatest impact are:
- High temperatures
- Flooding and coastal change
- More storms and heavy rainfall
- Soil erosion
The priority impacts of climate change in Kent include an increase in:
- The loss or reduction of agricultural land
- Overheating in homes and public buildings
- Flooding of homes and businesses
- Disruption on the travel and transportation networks
- Plants and animal diseases.
More information can be found on KCC Kent’s changing climate page
Climate change will therefore affect our health, security and access to food and drinking water.
We are running out of time before these changes become irreversible. We can still do something about it but we all have to start to act now. That’s what makes it an emergency.Permalink
What have Thanet District Council done so far?
- We have formed a working group consisting of elected members from all of the different political groups to steer the response to the climate emergency.
- We have formed a working group made up of council officers to coordinate the council’s response and deliver a change in approach to reflect the declaration.
- We are linked in with other councils through the Kent Resource Partnership and the Kent Climate Change Network, and we will take national and county steer on our approach through the Kent Environment Strategy and other developing strategies
- We recruited a climate change officer on the 1st September, who will be coordinating and leading on the authority’s response to the climate emergency. She will be developing the Council’s action plan further.
New roles at Thanet District Council
As well as employing a climate change officer last month, TDC has employed a number of new officer roles over the past 6 months whose objectives feed into the climate change and ecological emergency declaration.
Biodiversity and Horticultural Officer whose roles include advising on TDC’s tree stock, hedgerow and shrubs with the Open Spaces team, assisting with the implementation of tree and woodland strategies and policies, assisting town councils and community groups with tree and biodiversity related enquiries and also assisting planning department with applications around TPO trees and landscaping of new sites.
Home Energy Officer whose role includes reducing carbon emissions for all existing and new homes in Thanet and to reduce fuel poverty in the district by ensuring access to affordable heat and energy to all households. For more information on specific household assistance check our page on Energy in the Home
Strategic Access Management and Monitoring (SAMM) Officer whose role includes educating the community about the importance of the Thanet coast for the overwintering birds and how the birds need space to rest, roost, and recuperate before their long, three thousand mile, return journey to their summer breeding grounds. See https://www.thanet.gov.uk/looking-after-our-visiting-feathered-friends/
Education officer TDC is committed to reducing the level of litter in Thanet and has employed a education officer whose role is specifically around littering. Included in her wide ranging, she designs educational programmes, behaviour change strategies and undertakes visits to school and other locations to advise on environmental issues such as littering, dog fouling, graffiti and fly tipping. View our Education resource section.
TDC is committed to increasing energy efficiency standards and reducing their carbon footprint. We have committed to installing solar panel systems across Phase 3 of our new build programme comprising 26 properties: 6 houses and 20 flats which will greatly reduce their carbon footprint. These homes will also be fitted with high levels of insulation, reducing energy costs to our tenants and keeping the homes warm in winter and cool in summer.
TDC Homes Energy Officer is working with the government to enable residents obtain vouchers to receive up to 66% off the price of installing energy saving items such as insulation, double glazing and heat pumps up to a maximum of £5,000 (Green Homes Voucher).
Residents may be able to receive a higher level of subsidy if they are a homeowner and a member of the household receives one of the qualifying benefits, covering 100% of the cost of the improvements. The maximum value of the voucher is £10,000. There is also a Warm Homes Schemes for those on benefits.
The Local Plan has now been agreed and includes policies which encourage sustainable transport, water efficiency, energy efficiency and renewable energy (including requirements for electric vehicle charging points). It also includes a new biodiversity net gain policy. We will update these in the Local Plan early review to further encourage increased use of renewable energy, water use efficiency and use of low carbon materials in developments, and to address other climate change issues.
- View the Local Plan here – Climate change chapter: p165 – 172
The planning department have also updated the information on protected trees including a map of trees with tree protections orders (TPOs) within Thanet.
This team successfully applied for sustainable transport funding from KCC to carry out a cycling and walking audit of Thanet. The roads that people use for work and school will be assessed and the data gathered will be used to facilitate further funding to improve the cycling and walking networks. The way individuals choose to travel makes a big impact on their personal carbon footprint so we want to make these networks as safe and accessible as possible.
The Environmental Protection (Air Quality) EHO worked with KCC to obtain further funding from the Office of Low Emission Vehicles to install new electric charging points in car parks within Thanet, and rapid EV taxi chargers in Margate and Birchington. This new infrastructure will encourage the use of electric vehicles to help reduce pollution and reliance on fossil fuels.
Annual Status Report (ASR) 2020. Thanet has seen it’s third consecutive year running where low pollution levels have achieved air quality objectives based on data collected at 34 locations across the district. Defra have reviewed and assessed the council’s ASR and provided positive feedback on the measures to continue to address air quality within the district, including encouraging the uptake of electric vehicles and promotion of alternative forms of travel.
Our Open Spaces Team, Thanet Coast Project and Biodiversity and Horticultural Officer have been working with the Bumblebee Trust to create wildflower meadows in Thanet at Foreness Point and Westbrook Undercliff. They have been using a new cut and collect method which helps increase flower diversity, providing more nectar to local bees and other insects.
The Open Spaces team have also investigated using electric equipment instead of diesel powered machines. This decreases air pollution and also provides the opportunity for the equipment to be charged using renewable energy in the future.
Open Spaces is proud to announce that they are trialling not using glyphospate in all land that TDC manages e.g. parks, cemeteries. They are currently using man power while other environmentally friendly management techniques are investigated. TDC are also speaking to KCC who manage the weeds along the roads in Thanet to understand if they will follow suit.
Open Spaces are also surveying all the trees on TDC land to help understand tree cover in Thanet and to devise a plan to TPO more trees. The Open Spaces team and biodiversity officer also work with many community groups and facilitate tree planting activities.
Waste and Recycling
The Waste and Recycling Department are amending the waste collection routes to increase efficiencies with a potential for decreased emissions. The department has also investigated electric waste and recycling collection vehicles, the cost of which are currently more than double that of diesel vehicles. The development of electric and hydrogen power will continue to be monitored for review as alternatives to diesel combustion engines. Operational services will also continue to investigate the cost and performance of other electric vehicles within the fleet .
Thanet Coast Project
The Thanet Coast Project raises awareness of the importance of marine and bird life and works with local people and visitors delivering seashore safaris. They also run a Thanet Coastal Warden Scheme which trains individuals to monitor a stretch of coast. Volunteers can also take part in non native marine species control which helps to protect our coastline. Covid has affected these actions however the team has found some inspirational ways of moving the seashore safaris online. See for the full list of online seashore safaris visit the Thanet Coast websitePermalink
What we intend to do
TDC has control over its own land e.g. offices, depots, social housing, car parks, toilets and parks. There are also certain activities TDC is delegated to carry out as a district council e.g. rubbish collection, street cleaning and planning. KCC manages more and wider ranging activities such as the highways, schools, healthcare, social services and strategic planning. See the full division of services.
Fundamentally everything is guided by government policy and law.
TDC shall therefore do what is within its power to become carbon neutral by 2030 within our estates and activities. For areas outside of our control we will need assistance from the government, KCC and most importantly, from you!
Calculate a carbon footprint for TDC’s activities (gas, electricity, petrol and diesel use) and greenhouse gas emissions included in purchases. Our carbon footprint will broadly include:
→ heating and electricity use in offices abd buildings we own and council housing.
→ petrol and diesel use in our vehicles
→ greenhouse gas emissions within our purchases and contracts
Carbon zero strategy
Devise a carbon zero strategy and action plan to aim towards carbon neutrality by 2030 within TDC estates and activities.
Work with KCC on their strategy to achieve carbon neutrality Kent wide by 2050.
Trees and Biodiversity
Devise a Tree and Biodiversity strategy for Thanet to increase tree cover and to create a functional and beautiful biodiversity network throughout the district. Also ensure that new developments adhere to the biodiversity gains policy which means that developers must improve the biodiversity of their chosen development site.
Community and stakeholder engagement
Survey residents and businesses on issues related to climate change, low carbon habits and barriers to behaviour change, as well as their opinions on emerging TDC strategies.
In the local plan review, devise new ambitious planning policies to work towards low and zero carbon housing for new housing developments.
Inform residents of climate change related issues and how they can take part in the fight against global warming and the ecological crisis.
Facilitate residents and community groups
Facilitate residents and community groups with low carbon and biodiversity related actions including actions on health and poverty which will produce a healthy, sustainable, low carbon future.
Investigate funding opportunities to enable the actions within the climate change and biodiversity strategy.
Longer term actions:
- Mitigation – Understand the effect of climate change on the Isle of Thanet and put in place mitigation measures.
- Policies – Embed climate change action into all new policies and activities to ensure that they are working towards the zero carbon target.
- KCC and other stakeholders – Continue to work with KCC and others on wider ranging plans and targets for the District and County.
Take part in the fight against climate change
Research has shown in order for the UK to reach net carbon zero everyone needs to work together, so we need your help!
Reducing your carbon emissions
As individuals our carbon footprint is made up of
- The food we eat
- The way we travel
- The energy we use in our homes
- The things we buy
Here are some tips to reduce your carbon footprint. They have been split into things that won’t cost you much money or could possibly even save you money, things that require some upfront cost or a government grant and finally, things that require substantial amounts of money.
Things that won’t cost you much money/ could save you money:
- Eat less meat.
- Try to eat a diet with more vegetables, beans and pulses e.g. go for a vegetarian or chickpea curry instead of a meat curry. Meat contributes greatly to climate change through the methane that cows and sheep produce which is a much stronger greenhouse gas than CO2. Imported meat contributes to the destruction of the rainforests but so does the UK meat and diary industry itself. Some of the food our animals are fed is purchased from other countries where they are cutting down trees to clear land to grow the animal feed. The manure that animals produce also release methane and a strong greenhouse gas called nitrous oxide adding the carbon footprint of meat consumption.
- View this BBC article here for more information and to calculate your food footprint
- A diet with a lot of fruit and vegetables is also good for your health so this change will also be good for your life overall.
- Grow salad, herbs and vegetables in your garden/ window box
- Only buy what you will definitely eat
- Over purchasing of food is greatly contributing to climate change by placing unnecessary demand on food production. So by only buying the food you will definitely eat you will save money and reduce your carbon footprint. One way to reduce waste is to design a weekly meal plan. For other tips see: How to cut food waste and save cash. Food that goes to landfill also releases greenhouse gases as it decomposes, so for food that you can’t avoid throwing away, use the brown bin recycling scheme or a garden composter.
- If you have a car, try to use it less – choose to cycle or walk if possible. Make friends with others who want to walk or cycle more, form or join a group.
- Turn off appliances when you are not using them
- Change to low energy light bulbs
- Get a smart meter
- Do not overheat your house
- Consider your purchases and don’t impulse buy. he production of everything we buy uses fossil fuels, releasing greenhouse gases into the atmosphere contributing to climate change.
- Use local recycling systems if you do need to dispose of items e.g. TDC kerbside recycling: red bags for paper, blue bins for plastic/glass, brown bins for food.
- Repair items instead of buying new. Look into repairing items instead of buying new.
- Look into changing to a more green energy supplier. This may not save you money, but it may also not cost anymore. There are many suppliers who provide 100% green electricity now.
Things that cost money upfront but you may be able to get help from the government or conservation groups :
- loft insulation
- double glazing
- wall insulation in your house
- Plant a tree (or more than one)
View our Energy in the Home page for more information and advice
Things that will cost you money up front:
- Get an e bike to cycle to work. There may also be cycle to work schemes through your work that will reduce the cost of the bike.
- Get solar panels on your roof which will provide electricity without using fossil fuels (you can also charge your electric bike using them!)
- Buy an electric car
- Install a heat pump for low carbon heating.
These things will impact your carbon footprint greatly and may appeal to the more tech minded individual.Permalink
Help stop the biodiversity decline
Things that could save you money
- Use a reusable bottle for water or squash instead of buying single use plastic bottles of water/children’s squash.
- Use bags for life or canvas bags when shopping to reduce single use bags
- Consider your purchases. The production of the items we buy makes a massive demand on the natural world.
Things that likely cost nothing
Join local volunteering groups
- Get involved with In Bloom local events and show off your garden.
- Get involved with Kent Wildlife Trust activities
- Get involved with the Thanet Coast Project to help save our marine biodiversity
- Save as much of your front and back garden for nature as possible
Things that cost a small amount of money:
- Grow bee loving flowers such as lavender, rosemary and borage.
- Buy food from local suppliers who look after wildlife whilst growing the food
- The Kent Environment Strategy
- The Kent and Medway Low Energy and Emissions Strategy
- The Kent Biodiversity Strategy
Bills and reports
- The Environment Bill
- The IPCC reports on climate change
- The IPBES report
- The State of Nature report
- Committee on climate change
Prime Minister’s Office press release:
On 6 October 2020, the government set out plans to make the UK the world leader in clean wind energy. Confirming offshore wind will produce more than enough electricity to power every home in the country by 2030, based on current electricity usage, boosting the government’s previous 30GW target to 40GW.