Annual update reviewing progress of Climate Change Strategy

Three years after East Lothian Council’s Climate Change Strategy 2020-2025 was launched, the third annual update was noted and approved at today’s (Tuesday 28 February) full Council meeting.

The Climate Change Strategy sets out East Lothian Council’s commitment to tackling the Climate Emergency at a local level and details the vision and overall aims for a ‘Net Zero Council’ and a ‘Carbon Neutral East Lothian’ with specific outcomes, key priority areas and actions over an initial five year period towards achieving these overall aims.

Since the launch of the strategy it was recognised that although many planned priorities and actions have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic other opportunities have arisen which can result in a positive impact in reducing carbon emissions.

Council Leader, Cllr Norman Hampshire, said: “Local Authorities play a significant role in helping to tackle Climate Change in our local areas. As an organisation we assess and adapt our service provision to ensure appropriate improvements are made towards reducing overall carbon emissions and as an employer, which is the largest in the county, we have put in place a number of measures to adapt workplaces, offices and working practices to support the strategy’s aims.

“This annual update provides a clear indication of East Lothian Council’s progress in tackling the climate emergency through improved monitoring of the organisation’s carbon footprint, adding planned actions to adapt to climate change, and highlighting key achievements and risks. The Council is actively and immediately engaged in actions to support the reduction of carbon emissions but this update also clearly identifies significant challenges, particularly financial, that are impacting our progress.

 “We are making good progress with our Climate Change Strategy and Action Plan despite significant population growth resulting in increases in the Council’s estate through new schools, for example. To continue to meet the demands of East Lothian’s growing population the Council faces the challenge of balancing very challenging cost implications with delivering solutions that are environmentally sustainable. In the short term this may result in East Lothian’s overall carbon footprint increasing despite measures taken but this requires to be balanced by the solid achievements to reduce carbon output across the council.”

Key achievements noted within the annual review include:

  • East Lothian Council’s emissions in 2021/22 were counted to 15,653 tCO2e. This is a reduction of 15.2% compared to the 18,450 tCO2e emissions reported in 2019/20.
  • The Council has formed a Cross-Party Sustainability Forum to accelerate actions towards our net zero and climate change adaptation targets.
  • Certified training in Carbon Literacy is now available to all Council staff. This forms an important step to ensure a joint effort across all Council Services to tackle the climate emergency.
  • 97% of East Lothian’s Primary Schools have engaged with the programmes delivered by the Outdoor Learning Services in 2021/22. These programmes help pupils to connect with nature and increase their confidence in active travel.
  • A new Property Asset Review Team has been created following the completion of the Strategic Asset & Capital Plan Management Review. Making more efficient use of Council assets and estates is a key step to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and tackling the climate emergency.
  • The Energy Efficiency Standard for Social Housing (EESSH) in East Lothian improved from 86% in 2020 to 90% in 2021. East Lothian Council is currently above the average of all Scottish local authorities in EESSH.
  • 37 hectares of grassland have been restored through the Council’s new grass management arrangements. It supports wildflower meadows, benefits pollinators, nature networks, and people and nature in East Lothian communities.
  • Total household waste recycled increased to 29,093 tonnes from 27,137 tonnes in 2020 and 27,644 in 2019. This increase is from 51.8% of household waste recycled in 2016/17 to 53.9% in 2021

East Lothian Council’s Climate Change Strategy 2020-2025 is available to view and download on the council website and the annual update approved today at the full Council can be viewed here Agendas, reports and minutes | East Lothian Council Item 12.

Published: Wednesday, 1st March 2023