Climate Change is one of the biggest challenges we will ever face in our county. Human activity has already led to 1°C of global warming from pre-industrial levels. This is resulting in damaging impacts on lives, infrastructure and ecosystems already being felt by communities across West Sussex.
The predicted impacts of climate change in West Sussex include more frequent and intense flooding, drought, episodes of extreme heat and stormier conditions. These impacts are expected to lead to:
- an increase in heat-related deaths (particularly amongst the elderly)
- damage to essential infrastructure
- reduced availability of drinking water
- increased cost of food
- disruption to supply chains and service provision
- sea level rises
- greater coastal erosion
- an impact on coastal habitats and wetlands.
Today, we are already seeing some of these changes.
As a result, we need to both reduce carbon emissions to mitigate the cause of climate change, but also adapt our infrastructure, built environment, social systems, economy and natural environment to make them resilient to the different climatic conditions which we know we will see.
Our ambition and commitment to sustainability and climate change is long standing. We were one of the first local authorities to set a carbon reduction target, and in 2011 pledged to reduce our emissions by 50%.
We introduced a corporate-wide energy and water management programme that assessed the energy performance of our estate, identifying areas where we could improve efficiency and operating costs. We rolled out comprehensive programmes to improve our building management systems, improve insulation and upgrade lighting, both in our own buildings and in streetlights across the county.
We have, and continue to invest in, renewable energy. This is both in on-site locations, such as administration hubs and libraries, but also making significant investment in off-site renewables, including two operational solar farms.
As a result of this work, and a general reduction in the size of our corporate estate, we met our 2011 reduction target. We have also long supported communities to adapt and be resilient to climate change.
To support local communities in reducing the risk of localised surface and groundwater flooding, since 2013 we have promoted and funded Operation Watershed. We also train and empower local communities to prepare, respond and recover from extreme events and to adapt to adversity through our What If? programme. Despite these successes we understand that we need to lead by example and do more, faster.
In April 2019, the County Council acknowledged the threat of climate change and passed a motion pledging to try to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2030. We have since published a Carbon Management Plan setting out how we plan to meet this target. This is available to download below.
In July 2020 the County Council also approved a Climate Change Strategy, available below. The strategy is intended to provide a framework which will shape and influence every part of our business.
The strategy recognises that, due to the council’s unique position, we have three critical opportunities to act by:
- showing leadership - we can take the lead by making positive changes to our own assets, operations and contracts
- enabling - we can enable our communities, suppliers and partnerships to live and work in different ways by making decisions, setting policies and strategies and spending our budgets in ways that create and unlock opportunities for all of us.
- influencing - we can use our influence to engage with others to make changes beyond what we control.
The strategy also sets our five priority commitments. We will:
- mitigate the effects of climate change by reducing carbon emissions (aligning with our ambitious target to be carbon neutral by 2030)
- adapt and be resilient to a changing climate
- source and use resources sustainably
- support and grow our local green economy
- transform how we work.
The strategy is supported by a delivery plan, which gives a summary of the priority actions the County Council is taking over the next two years.