Addressing Climate Change in Cambridgeshire & Peterborough

October 2021

Dr Ethan D. Aines

Introduction

On 18 October 2021, the Cambridgeshire & Peterborough Independent Commission on Climate (CPICC) released their second report and recommendations for mitigating and adapting to climate change following their initial recommendations in March this year. In June, all 30 initial recommendations were accepted by the Cambridgeshire & Peterborough Combined Authority (CPCA), and work has since begun on an implementation action plan.

The latest report proposes new areas for progress across the CPCA including a crucial focus on a just transition, and the importance of considering how climate action intersects with inequality across the region to ensure that decarbonisation is not a driver of further inequality. The report also makes new recommendations for business and industry, waste, and the intersection between regional water, nature, and climate adaptation issues.

The scale of the challenge

The report gives an updated assessment of the region’s current greenhouse gas emissions and action that local government, businesses, and civil society must take to bring the region’s economy to zero emissions by 2050. It makes clear that when emissions from land use, including those from drying peatlands, are taken into account, the region only has six years remaining before it will have used up its entire carbon budget to 2050. Emissions across the region, without considering the impact of land use, are almost 25% higher per person than the UK average.

Beyond the need for rapid climate mitigation action to reduce emissions in the region, the report once again highlights the heightened vulnerability of the region with regard to climate risk. Homes, businesses, agriculture, and critical infrastructure are at greater risk of severe climate impacts like summer overheating, both drought and flooding, and higher sea level. The region faces these risks irrespective of the UK’s net zero transition, although they will certainly be worse with any additional warming beyond 1.5° C, highlighting the need for an integrated, cross-sectoral approach to climate adaptation.

As in March, the CPICC emphasises that the scale of transition will be huge, and that significant investment will be needed. The report estimates a requirement of around £700m annually through the 2020s across the CPCA area, from sources both public and private. While the CPCA’s borrowing powers could be an important lever for supporting investment, the report also reemphasises the need for central government to support local government in tackling these issues. Further devolution of powers, more funding, and greater clarity are required from central government in order to help local government take action. As Baroness Brown, Dame Julia King said at the launch of the new recommendations, local government still has one hand tied behind its back with regard to the ability to tackle the climate crisis.

Buildings and transportation

The CPICC report makes the case for ambitious action to rapidly decarbonise the region’s homes, businesses, transportation, and waste while also addressing the nature crises and encouraging resilience and adaptation in the face of future climate related risk.

The CPICC recommends that all new buildings be net zero ready by 2023, that all existing buildings with an EPC “C” or below have a renovation plan (digital green passport, extended to include water efficiency, cooling measures and property level flood resilience measures where appropriate), and that residents and workers have a ‘right to charge’ with electric vehicle charging infrastructure on all new builds after 2023 and a charging infrastructure plan across the CPCA and relevant authorities by 2022. New builds should also include water efficiency measures, limiting water usage to 110L per day per person.

Furthermore, specific to transportation, all buses and taxis should be zero emissions by 2030, and diesel vans and trucks excluded from urban centres by 2030. This must include the development of at least three freight consolidation centres to be established outside of major urban areas with onward zero emission deliveries.

Waste management

New recommendations in the report also include an urgent revision of waste management strategy, which is currently out of the date, and the need for communication with the public to reduce waste across the region by 37% by 2030, with at least 65% of household waste recycled by that date. According to the commission, the economics of energy from waste (EfW) plants must also be revisited in light of reduced waste in future, public notoriety, and the necessity and added cost that all new EfW plants include carbon capture and storage (CCS) from the outset.

Adaptation, water, and nature

With regard to adaptation, the commission recommends increased communication with the public about future climate risks, to ensure that all people are aware of future climate risks and able to take action. Furthermore, the report calls for an in integrated water management plan to account for future water restraints in the region. Without this, economic, housing, and population growth will be difficult. Planning for water catchment and reforming water industry natural environment programs form important parts of these recommendations. Delivery of the Doubling Nature Ambition, announced by Natural Cambridgeshire in July, must also be accelerated, recognising the contributions of large-scale nature recovery to climate change mitigation and adaptation.

Business and industry

While industry and commercial emissions across the region are slightly below the UK per capita average due to a lack of major energy intensive industries, the report focuses attention on the key role of industry and business in reducing emissions, which account for around 27% of the total emissions across the region.

The CPICC recommends developing a green skills and innovation strategy, to ensure that future jobs are ‘green’ jobs that support the opportunities afforded by climate mitigation and adaptation. This priority will be supported by a quantified assessment of how skills requirements across the region will change. The Commission also calls to expand net zero awareness for businesses by increasing advice services across the region. As Baroness Brown highlighted in the report launch, SMEs in particular have stated that they need more support, and linking businesses with information has become increasingly important. Advice sharing will help businesses across the region as they are encouraged to prioritize actions to bring their emissions to zero. The development of a regional “Race to Zero,” a Low Carbon Business Charter, will also be crucial by encouraging local organisations and businesses to sign up to pathways to net zero emissions.

Clear opportunities for economic growth and other benefits

Business and industry will also have a key role in driving investment in green technology and leveraging the region’s strengths in IT, biotech, advanced manufacturing and agriculture. There is huge potential for the region to be a leader by applying existing strengths and developing skills.

Multiple benefits including a thriving and resilient economy can be delivered by designing appropriate local climate policy and targeting investment in the right way. The commission also sees significant opportunity for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough to become leaders in developing, manufacturing, and deploying some of the key solutions required for climate mitigation and adaptation by first developing a true envirotech cluster.

The recommendations outlined by the commission will also provide a number of other benefits including improving air quality and health outcomes, reducing energy bills, making our homes more comfortable and resilient to future climate risks, and improving prosperity and well-being. In consultations with residents across the region, the public have made clear that they expect these benefits and insist the area should be a leader in taking action.

Upcoming business engagement event with CPICC

The chair of the CPICC, Baroness Brown, Dame Julia King, along with commissioners Dame Polly Courtice, Lynne Sullivan, and Richard Astle will join a discussion on Friday, 29 October on the findings and recommendations of the report moderated by Emily Farnworth, Co-Director at the Centre for Climate Engagement, and with Biplak Rakshi, Chair of IoD East of England. This event, “A call for Board-level Climate Action” will communicate the findings of the report and highlight the need for board-level engagement and action within the region’s business community.