A league table of local authorities published by the Department of Energy and Climate Change puts Peterborough near to the bottom of the table for carbon emissions, threatening to scupper the Conservative Council’s Environmental Capital aspirations. LibDem spokesman Richard Olive puts the case for the prosecution, and Sam Dalton Conservative Cabinet Member for Environment Capital brings Peterborough Council Climate Change Team Manager Charlotte Palmer along with her into the studio to give an account to the BBC’s Paul Stainton of where we are and what we’re doing about it.
These interviews were broadcast at 07:12 and 08:12 respectively on Monday 2nd August 2010 in the Peterborough Breakfast Show on BBC Radio Cambridgeshire.
PAUL: Now the city’s bid to become the UK’s Environment Capital seems to have taken a serious knock. A new study into carbon emissions show that Peterborough City Council is one of the worst offenders amongst local authorities. The Government figures reveal for two thousand and eight two thousand and nine over thirty six thousand tons of Co2 emissions were produced by Peterborough City Council. Richard Olive is from the local LibDem Executive and Friends of the Earth and joins me in the studio. Morning.
RICHARD: Good morning Paul.
PAUL: This is quite a shock. I was under the misapprehension that we were doing fantastically well in our efforts to become an Environment City Capital.
RICHARD: Well it is really quite sad I think in a way because Peterborough has led the way environmentally for quite a few years. But it does appear that our progress environmentally is actually faltering, and it’s not just in terms of the carbon footprint. In all sorts of areas we are slipping down the charts, which is a shame.
PAUL: Now you’ve had a weekend to look at all these figures, and they’re quite complicated aren’t they? So essentially they take the emissions that Peterborough City Council make, and they divide them by head of population …
PAUL: .. to find a figure. So there’s no way you can sort of cheat it, or massage it. It’s there in black and white, and we’re quite low down the order.
RICHARD: Yes we are. I think about 29th. The figures were in fact supplied by the Council. They have been interpreted by the Department of Energy and Climate Change. So they are pretty accurate. They do actually deal .. to be fair .. with the Council’s own emissions, but it does actually show the direction in which we’re going. And it shows a mindset to some extent. One of the things that disturbs me, a fairly simple thing, is the fountains in Cathedral Square, which are actually being run off a diesel generator at the moment.
PAUL: Which produce an inordinate amount of emissions .
RICHARD: That’s right. Yes. It’s heavily polluting. So they really ought to be off a sustainable energy source. I think the plans are eventually it will be, but it is a mindset, as I said. Other councils actually have vehicles which run off biofuel. They actually have sustainable energy generating sources within their areas. Peterborough’s only got one wind turbine in the whole of the Greater Peterborough area.
PAUL: Can we really claim to be an Environment City then, any more? This is damning isn’t it? Is there ary wriggle room for the Council anywhere in these figures?
RICHARD: Well unfortunately no. We actually keep a tab on how Peterborough’s performing in all sorts of areas. It’s not just the carbon footprint as I said before, recycling. Now we are the fourth best unitary recycler. We were the first. But if you look at all the councils we are actually forty seventh best recycler. We were twenty ninth.
PAUL: Are we going backwards, or are other people going further forwards more quickly?
RICHARD: In some areas we are actually going backwards. In terms of sustainable transport for instance, we were aiming for forty per cent of journeys to be sustainable. We were on thirty three, and we’re now on thirty two. But in terms of recycling yes we’ve been leap-frogged by other authorities around, who are doing much better. Peterborough is on forty eight per cent. South Staffordshire is on sixty one per cent. And there are some areas, even in South Cambridgeshire, which are on over seventy per cent.
PAUL: You say that the generator in Cathedral Square is one of the issues. Why are Co2 emissions so high in this city then, the Council’s Co2 emissions?
RICHARD: Well the buildings, I suppose. One of the things they should be doing is saving more in energy. They need to actually control the energy they’re using, and they need to be using energy from sustainable sources.
PAUL: Which they’re not doing.
RICHARD: No. We don’t seem to have any anaerobic energy generation, we don’t seem to have any solar panels, wind turbines, or anything as other councils do. They in fact generate a lot of their own power.
PAUL: So the Council are always preaching to us about how we ought to do more to become an Environment City Capital. They might as well pack up, mightn’t they?
RICHARD: Well it isn’t of course just the City Council. But the councillors should be showing a good lead. We are actually looking at everybody to do their bit, including private companies. But if the Council don’t do their bit I don’t think it’s very likely that other people will follow.
PAUL: A good point. Richard Olive from the local Liberal Democrat Executive, who works for Friends of the Earth as well. .. We’ll have the Council on after eight, and find out whether they walked or cycled here.
PAUL: Now as we revealed just after seven this morning, Peterborough City Council has been criticised for the size of its carbon footprint. It’s a decent size ten by the looks of it. It’s one of the worst twenty offenders in the UK according to Government figures. Richard Olive from the local LibDem Executive said the city was failing in its Environment Capital aspirations. (TAPE)
RICHARD: We actually keep a tab on how Peterborough’s performing in all sorts of areas. It’s not just the carbon footprint. As I said before, recycling, now we are the fourth best unitary recycler. We were the first. But if you look at all the councils we are actually forty seventh best recycler. We were twenty ninth. (LIVE)
PAUL: Well the Government figures reveal for two thousand and eight two thousand and nine over thirty six thousand tons of Co2 emissions were produced by the Council. I’m joined in the studio by Councillor Samantha Dalton Cabinet member for Environment Capital. Morning.
SAMANTHA: Good morning.
PAUL: And the Council’s Climate Change Team Manager Charlotte Palmer. Morning.
PAUL: Good morning.
PAUL: Who shall I start with? I should bang your heads together. This is awful, isn’t it? What are we doing at the Council Sam? We should be more responsible. We’re trying to be Environment City Capital. What’s going on?
SAMANTHA: I don’t think it’s awful at all. We’re on a journey. We’re very committed to the challenge. Back in April we signed off our Carbon Management Action Team Plan, and now it’s a case of getting that implemented. We’ve shown that we’re committed, we’ve got the Climate Change Team on board, and they’re doing everything they can. And it would be great if people like Richard Olive would support us, and give us some ideas as to how he thinks we can bring our carbon emissions down.
PAUL: Yes. How can we? And how should we be approaching this? We’re chuffing out a lot of carbon here, aren’t we?
SAMANTHA: We are. We are. And there’s an awful lot of things that we can do. Unfortunately a lot of them cost money as well, so it is a balancing game. We’re putting automatic meter readings across all of our sites to work out exactly how much energy we’re using and when we’re using it. So we can look at reviewing what we use and when. We’re upgrading boilers across schools. We’re upgrading the Crematorium facility. The Museum’s getting a new boiler. As I said there are lots of things we are doing that are going to bring our emissions down. But it’s a case of invest to save.
PAUL: Charlotte, have you had a chance to look at why we’re putting out so much Co2 at the moment? Is it old infrastructure, old buildings? Are we struggling with that? Are we worse off because of that?
CHARLOTTE: Well the information that we submitted, that DECC have released recently, which is the information that’s been used to calculate these figures, is something that we’ve put together as a local authority. So we’re quite aware of the data in there, and it wasn’t something that came as a surprise to us. But you’re right, we do have a really mixed estate. We have mixed services out there, and we also have a lot of services that we provide that perhaps other local authorities don’t. The Crematorium that Sam mentioned is one of those. Obviously that’s quite a big user of energy. Also we’ve got a lot of street lighting around the city and the rural areas of Peterborough. All of these we have looked at the figures for, and we have got plans in place for how we can make savings ..
PAUL: There’s a lot of street lighting in Birmingham, but we’re in the worst top twenty. It’s terrible, isn’t it?
CHARLOTTE: But that’s not necessarily accurate, because the data is not comparable in this set of information. Because we have more information included than some other local authorities. For example, one of the requirements of this indicator was that we needed to include emissions from our outsourced services, so organisations that provide a service on behlaf of Peterborough City Council. But we know other local authorities haven’t included that data. So straight away that takes out a big chunk of the emissions that we’ve been honest about and included. Because we’re really keen that we want to set our baseline order. We’re quite open, quite honest. This is how many tons of carbon we’re emitting as a council.
PAUL: Well we can compare the data with three hundred and twenty authorities that have put that data in, can’t we?
CHARLOTTE: As DECC say themselves on their own website this information isn’t comparable, and they’re not trying to draw any ..
PAUL: With anybody?
CHARLOTTE: Not in the first year ..
PAUL: Oh right.
CHARLOTTE: .. because this is the first time any local authority has been asked to report on carbon emissions.
PAUL: So you’re saying these figures are rubbish basically?
CHARLOTTE: What I am saying is the information that we have put in our data is correct. We do emit between thirty four and thirty six thousand tons of, depending on whether you include the outsourced services element. We know that’s correct. We’ve got the plan in place by twenty fourteen to make a twelve thousand ton carbon reduction.
PAUL: So is that thirty six thousand tons, is it better or worse than it was a year ago, or two years ago?
CHARLOTTE: The first year that we collected the data was in two thousand and eight nine. And we’re currently collating the two thousand and nine ten data. So we’ll have a clear indication soon of whether that’s got any better.
PAUL: But if you were to hazard a guess, we must be better now, surely. We want to claim to be Environmental Capital, so are we any better now than we were, perhaps, say five years ago?
CHARLOTTE: We’re definitely better. For example we’ve saved ninety tons on our refuse collection service over the last year, from going from a five day to a four day week collection service. So that’s tons of carbon saved that have been generated by projects not explicitly designed to save carbon. They’re a by-product. And of course we are implementing projects specifically to save carbon as well. The big difference that we’ve got now is there’s a change of culture within the City Council. The Climate Change Team review all new projects that are coming in to look at the environmental impact, look and assess for ways we can do things better, and from a more environmentally aware perspective.
PAUL: A heck of a long way to go to be Environment Capital though, isn’t it? Can we ever really be that?
SAMANTHA: Yes. Definitely.
PAUL: Are you sure?
SAMANTHA: Yes. Very much so. I don’t think we necessarily have to be the best at everything to claim ourselves as Environment Capital. As I mentioned earlier, we are on a journey, and we put environment to the forefront of everything we do. So I think that is very important.
PAUL: But when people see these figures, and see the amount the Council’s throwing out there in carbon, it sounds a bit like preaching, doesn’t it, if you’re not getting your own house in order?
SAMANTHA: We are. We are getting our own house in order. And if you wanted to draw comparisons, if you looked at all four Environment Cities, Middlesborough, Leeds, Leicester and ourselves, I think Leeds beat us but we’re better than the other two. So if you wanted to draw comparisons fine. And also I think the important thing to remember with these figures is, if they are based on per head, then is our head count right for this city. We know that it’s not. So you can draw from that what you like.
PAUL: So all the figures are wrong on everything. (LAUGHS)
SAMANTHA: I don’t think the figures are wrong. We know what our baseline carbon emissions are. I don’t necessarily care what anyone else’s baseline emissions are. I know what we’re doing in this city, and we are making this a priority.
PAUL: So I just write under the report “could do better.”?
SAMANTHA: No. We will do better. And we are doing better.
PAUL: “Will — do — better”. (SOUND OF SCRIBBLING) Sam Dalton, thank you for that.
SAMANTHA: Thank you.
PAUL: Sam Dalton Cabinet Member for Environment Capital. Charlotte Palmer Climate Change Team Manager at Peterborough City Council.