Our climate change and biodiversity strategies
Last Updated: 21 November 2023
Climate change is the long-term change in temperatures and weather patterns. Human activity has been the main driver of these changes due to burning fossil fuels, and since the millennium we have had 20 of the hottest 22 years on record. GOV.UK: climate change explained.
The 2016 Paris Treaty is an agreement between the United Nations that aims to keep global warming below 2 degrees centigrade. However, in 2018 the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) suggested this should be reduced to a maximum of 1.5 degrees centigrade of warming. This requires a global reduction in carbon emissions of 45% by 2030 and be carbon-neutral by 2050. We are embracing these targets and have declared a climate emergency, aiming to be a carbon-neutral council by 2030 and support a district wide target of 2037.
Climate change action plan
Climate change is not just a global problem as we are currently experiencing the effects at the local level. We have seen warmer and drier summers and wetter winters with severe storms and flooding, such as those caused by Storm Desmond in 2015.
We are committed to reduce our emissions and to develop resilience to climate change across our district. We work in partnerships to help local people, businesses and other organisations reduce their carbon footprint and improve the local environment as well as reduce energy costs, tackle fuel poverty and enable a circular economy. In doing so, our district can see many social, economic and health benefits.
In summary, our Climate Change Action Plan commits us to:
- aim to achieve net carbon neutral as a council by 2030 and support a Cumbria-wide target of carbon neutrality by 2037
- developing and supporting projects to tackle and respond to climate change in our district and in Cumbria
- decarbonise our estate’s buildings through a programme of energy efficiency measures and capital projects
- reduce our emissions from our own authority’s services, which involves decarbonising our fleet, addressing staff travel emissions and continuing to provide a comprehensive waste management service
- assess the risk associated with climate change and manage the impacts on our services and communities
- raise public awareness and encourage our local communities to reduce their own emissions
- play a role in place shaping and enabling community work to reduce emissions and the impact on the natural environment
Biodiversity protection and enhancement strategy
Despite being an area renowned for its natural assets, Cumbria is facing a decline in wildlife and biodiversity. Over time, South Lakeland has seen the removal of hedgerows and dry stone walls, a higher cattle grazing pressure and more pollutants reaching our lakes and rivers. Whilst an increase in tourism provides positive economic support to our district, it also brings associated issues such as ground disturbance, pollution and litter.
In December 2019, our Biodiversity Policy was approved, which helps us to protect biodiversity whilst delivering our key services. This commits us to:
- encourage habitat creation, restoration and safeguarding
- adopt biodiversity-friendly land management measures
- ensure that contaminated land is effectively remediated when land is redeveloped
- support other organisations to enhance biodiversity in South Lakeland, such as the Cumbria Wildlife Trust, the Morecambe Bay Partnership and the National Trust
Our district-wide target of reaching net-zero carbon emissions by 2037 is based on the Small World Consulting Report completed for Cumbria at the beginning of 2020: Carbon baseline for Cumbria (PDF 8MB / 49 pages).
We are also part of the Zero Carbon Cumbria Partnership that successfully bid for £2.5 million of National Lottery funding to cut carbon emissions in the county. This ambitious project began in January 2021 and will span the public, private and third sectors. Notable parties include community groups, the NHS, Cumbria Constabulary, national parks and local businesses. Zero Carbon Cumbria programme provides further information.