Since our declaration in 2019 and the adoption of our first strategy in 2021, Dorset Council has put tackling climate change and supporting our natural environment as a core priority in our 2022-2023 Council plan.
Our strategy set a clear direction with realistic and achievable ambitions for us to become a carbon neutral council by 2040 and a carbon neutral county by 2050, frontloaded by interim targets. Its importance has got ever clearer since, following publication of the IPCC’s Sixth Assessment Report:
- by 2025 we plan a 36% cut in Dorset's emissions and a 40% cut in Council emissions
- by 2030 we plan a 59% cut in Dorset's emissions and a 71% cut in Council emissions
- by 2035 we plan a 90% cut in Council emissions
- by 2040 we plan a 88% cut in Dorset's to be a carbon neutral Council
- by 2050 we plan to be a carbon neutral Dorset
Since 2021, the Council has established an operational programme to cut the emissions we directly control, and a facilitation programme to influence those that we don’t. This is supported by a £10m capital programme to fund delivery. As a result, we’ve seen significant progress, which is now reported on biannually.
The council’s emissions have declined by over a quarter since our 2019 baseline year as a result, meaning that we’re well on track if this is maintained. But the new availability of more complete data for the county shows that whilst Dorset’s emissions fell by over a tenth in the two years to 2020, action for the county needs to go faster to reach our targets.
Our 2021 strategy noted critical and fundamental uncertainty on national policy, but there is now far greater clarity thanks to the emergence of the UK Net Zero Strategy, the Environment Act, the new Environment Improvement Plan, and last year’s Climate Change Risk Assessment. There are, as a result, some major national milestones that are now clear. And importantly, many of these are imminent: from heat pumps and boilers to fossil-fuelled vehicles and the decarbonisation of the grid by 2035 – big national changes are rapidly approaching.
Given all this we committed to refresh the strategy. As was noted upon its adoption, it is a living document that will evolve as delivery, technology and policy progresses. The content of our strategy was formed by our cross-party Executive Advisory Panel, and crucially shaped by the generous input of our partners and communities – including through our Call for Ideas, Inquiry Day, schools engagement and consultation. That the content still has considerable relevance after the national policy context has changed so significantly is a testament to everyone who helped to shape it.
This refresh has therefore repurposed that content rather than rewriting it from scratch. We have updated the narrative on the national policy context and tried to better articulate the ‘three pillars’ of the climate, biodiversity and resilience challenges – and of the interdependencies of decarbonisation, nature recovery and adaptation.
We’ve also tried to make it clearer and more concise: the original was around 140 pages with the action plan, including over 160 actions, much of which could be condensed without losing ambition. Instead, we’ve tried to lay out here a set of simpler ‘missions’ alongside the key levers to achieve them, making it easier to understand, manage and monitor.
But as in 2021, what is clear is that the council cannot deliver alone: we all have a role to play. Financial pressures are ever more pressing during this cost-of-living crisis, and this can be an obstacle for organisations and individuals alike. Whilst there remain simple and affordable things we can all do, there is no avoiding the need for creative and innovative partnerships across our organisations and the private sector in order to deliver.
But the response to COVID-19 showed what can be achieved when we pull together, and we must do that again to achieve a carbon neutral, nature positive, resilient Dorset. Through this strategy we show how we will lead by example and to influence and facilitate delivery well beyond the council.