Combined Authority scrutinizes climate report ahead of board decision

The COP26 summit brought parties together to accelerate action towards the goals of the Paris Agreement and the UN Framework

The COP26 summit brought parties together to accelerate action towards the goals of the Paris Agreement and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. - Credit: Bridget Smith/Twitter

Members of the overview and scrutiny committee of the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority (CAPCA) met yesterday (March 28) to discuss the implications of a new climate report. 

The meeting was in advance of any decisions that may be made at board level, with that meeting due to take place tomorrow (March 30). 

Speaking to the members, Cllr Michael Atkins, overview and scrutiny member for climate change and environment, said: “We have an opportunity to scrutinize the proposals in the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough climate action plan 2022-2025.

"This is ahead of any decisions that wish to be taken at board level when they meet tomorrow. 

“The report has been written to accompany, and is intended to provide members with a helpful summary highlighting the key areas of risk or challenge that the committee may wish to consider."

The Independent Commission reported that the region emitted 5Mt CO2e per year, or six tonnes per person in 2019, which was 25% higher than the UK average. 

Excluding crops and soils, the difference to the UK average is accounted for by surface transport, where there are higher emissions across cars, vans, and HGV’s, with high levels of ownership and a lack of public transport alternatives. 

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The region also faces significant risk from global warming, particularly flooding, summer highs and water shortages. 

If global temperatures rise by three degrees above pre-industrial levels by the end of the century, rainfall could be over 50% lower, there would be regular summer temperatures of 40 degrees and a sea level rise of one metre or more. 

Cllr Bridget Smith, leader of South Cambridgeshire District Council, said: “Climate and environment action has been sadly lacking over the past few years from the work of the CAPCA. 

“In many respects, that is what this new report is all about – addressing those issues. 

“I think there is a lot for us to be worried about, not the least which is the £700 million per annum target set by the government to achieve what needs to be done, and where that money will come from.” 

The Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Independent Commission on Climate (CPICC) was set up by former Mayor Palmer to advice the CAPCA how to respond to the climate emergency. 

CPICC produced an initial report in March 2021 and a full report in October 2021, both of which were accepted by the board and current Mayor Johnson. 

The reports contain 58 recommendations. 

The CAPCA has two broad levers to pull in this regard – its financial resources and a ‘convening power’. 

The major capital projects proposed (which will need individual business cases and further approval in the future) are: 

  • £2.7m development of the Waterbeach waste management park to install solar panels for low emission vehicles 

  • £2m fund to pilot retrofit programmes in private care homes 

  • £1.2m in Huntingdonshire biodiversity schemes 

  • A further £0,3m for Logan’s Meadow in Cambridge 

  • £1m fund to invest in “nature and environment”, to be administered in partnership with Natural Cambridgeshire 

  • £1m fund for ‘Net-Zero villages’, which will solicit bid from villages in the region 

  • £1m investment in the Northeast Cambridge foodbank so it can act as a distribution hub for donations. 

Cllr Smith added: “While the CAPCA has funded some ‘pilot’ projects to the sum of £10 million – which is not a small amount – it is still only a small amount in terms of the total that is needed. 

“This represents an ‘awaking’ of the CAPCA and its board to the reality that this matter is the biggest threat to all of us. 

“We’ve had a pandemic – hopefully we’ll survive that, we have a war in Ukraine and hopefully most people will survive that. 

“But actually, climate change is the one thing that we might not survive, and therefore, it has got to be the overarching priority in everything that we do.” 

Cllr Smith believes there are questions to be asked about whether they should be funding roads and carparks.

She believes that what they should be doing is looking at a shift away from fossil-fuelled methods of transportation and into electric vehicles or onto bikes and public transport. 

“I think there is still a lot more that can and should be done,” she said. 

The Combined Authority board will meet at Sand Martin House in Peterborough tomorrow (March 30) to determine which parts of the report, if any, they should adopt.