Councillor Sue Burke, Sustainability Advocate, presented a report as the first in this role which provided an outline of some of the sustainability work the Council currently undertook.
Councillor Burke was pleased to report that the City Council had sustainability at the centre of its projects and she looked forward to the authority building on this in the future. The Lincoln Project Management Model provided the Council’s guiding definition of sustainability, which it stated was about getting the right balance or harmony between economic sustainability, social sustainability and environmental sustainability. The report set out some of the initiatives that the Council was involved with regarding sustainability, which included:
· working in partnership to promote Fair Trade in Lincoln, with the City being initially granted Fairtrade City status in 2013 which it continued to hold;
· working in partnership as a member of the Lincoln Food Partnership which carried out a food hub consultation in July 2018. The food hub was a central facility where food could be collected, stored, processed and distributed to community projects across Lincolnshire as a means to reduce food waste, reduce food poverty and promote a long-term sustainable mode of food citizenship;
· promotion of individual action on the more traditional and sustainable ‘green’ issues. A key objective was to make homes more energy efficient, which included supporting residents to access Energy Company Obligation funding through energy suppliers;
· promotion of the Low Carbon Lincoln Partnership which signed up to a target to reduce Lincoln’s carbon dioxide emissions by 25% by 2020 and 80% by 2050. Carbon dioxide emissions had reduced by 41.3% since 2005 despite the level of growth in the city.
Councillor Burke reported that the Council had reduced its corporate greenhouse gas emissions by 34% since 2008 and would continue to look for opportunities to reduce its emissions and environmental impact further. She looked forward to the Council continuing to make progress towards a carbon free future through its sustainable polices and approaches both as a Council and in partnership.
Councillor Eddie Strengiel asked, in relation to the Council’s new build aspirations, whether more sustainable energy sources such as heat pumps which were becoming popular would be used in the future. Councillor Burke agreed to provide a response to this question outside of the meeting after consulting with officers.
Councillor Thomas Dyer said that the Council should be proud of a 41.3% reduction in carbon dioxide emissions since 2005. He asked what more could be done by the Council and other partners to encourage more recycling, especially in order that people knew, for example, what could or could not be recycled and that it was important for this to be publicised. Councillor Dyer also highlighted that there were problem areas in the city where recycling rates were low and asked how this could be improved. Councillor Burke agreed that people did need encouragement but also agreed with the point made that they were confused as to what they could and could not recycle. She did advocate the recycling of more types of plastics than those which could currently be recycled, however, it was acknowledged that there were cost implications associated with this.
Councillor Dyer was complimentary of the Council’s approach to using more economical vehicles but asked whether, in the future, the Council could switch to electric vehicles. In addition, he asked what progress generally would be made over the next year with regard to the sustainability agenda. Councillor Burke said that the Council would aspire to use more electric vehicles and additional charging facilities had been placed in the Central Lincoln Car Park to enable more people to use electric vehicles in the city. In terms of progress over the next year, she made the point that addressing the challenges identified within the report would be an ongoing agenda.
Councillor Dyer reported that he had been contacted by a resident who was part of the Plastic Free Lincoln Group which was campaigning to take action against the use of single use plastics. The resident called for the Council to lead by example and remove all single use plastics by the end of the year, requesting that an audit be carried out to identify all sources of single use plastics, together with an action plan setting out timescales and who would be accountable. Councillor Dyer acknowledged that the timescales associated with the request may not be achievable, but asked whether an audit of single use plastics could potentially take place. Councillor Burke was supportive of the reduction in single use plastics although it would not be possible for the Council to remove all single use plastics from its operation by the end of the year. The Council should, however, be educating people about what they could do to reduce the amount of single use plastics they used on a day to day basis. This was an ongoing issue which the Council was aware of, but she acknowledged that more could be done by everyone to reduce this type of waste.
Councillor Gary Hewson reflected on comments made by the Portfolio Holder for Remarkable Place at the meeting of the Performance Scrutiny Committee held on 21 February 2019 in that it was the suppliers and producers of plastics who should take some accountability. It was the Council’s responsibility to collect the waste, but any change needed to start with those who produced these plastic products in the first instance. Councillor Sue Burke agreed with these sentiments and said that pressure had to be placed on the producers of plastics in order to make changes, which had already happened nationally in relation to products such as cotton buds.
Councillor Jim Hanrahan supported the work that the Council had undertaken so far, but acknowledged that the authority could only do so much. From the perspective of planning, he was of the opinion that the private sector needed to act on this issue as well in order that more developments were more sustainable in nature.
Councillor Christopher Reid sought some clarity as to where the city was now in respect of carbon dioxide emissions, as the report stated that this had reduced by 41.3% since 2005. Councillor Burke agreed to provide a response to this query outside of the meeting after consulting with officers.