News  ⁄  Climate & environment

Exeter City Council accepts climate emergency plan to make city carbon neutral by 2030

Chief Executive warns that resourcing the plan is "problematic" given COVID-19 financial challenges and that lack of resources limits the council's capacity for immediate practical action.

Exeter city council   Climate crisis   Net zero exeter   Coronavirus  

Exeter City Council has accepted a plan intended to make the city carbon neutral by 2030. At a meeting on Tuesday its Executive agreed to recommend that the Net Zero Exeter plan published by Exeter City Futures in April should be adopted by the council as a policy “to inform all policy documents, plans and corporate decision making in response to the climate emergency”.

The plan sets out a range of actions that Exeter City Futures believes can deliver the city council’s target of a carbon neutral Exeter by 2030. The actions are to be taken by Exeter City Council and Devon County Council as well as organisations and individuals across the city. The plan’s 26 priority actions come with estimated carbon savings and indicative timescales attached to each, but the plan is an indicative route map rather than an operational document.

The plan was developed from a “blueprint” published by Exeter City Futures in February. It claims extensive community, business and political involvement in its production. Council leader Phil Bialyk stressed in his remarks to the Executive that what was particularly good about the plan was that had they had “consulted with a number of groups”.

The total number of participants in online and physical events was 302. Three events were cancelled due to COVID-19, including a “mobilisation summit” planned for 26 March.

Exeter City Futures Net Zero Exeter business workshop tweet

A report to the executive by the city council chief executive Karime Hassan made further recommendations about the future handling of the plan, covering finance and governance.

Mr Hassan told the meeting that the lack of resources, both human and financial, meant that the city council cannot take practical action now in delivering its part of the plan beyond building its principles into work already underway and planned.

The loss of income from car parking and other fees due to the coronavirus pandemic together with a decade of funding cuts by central government had left the council in a very difficult financial position. There would be an emergency budget brought to councillors in July.

The report claimed that it “could require close to £1 billion to achieve a net zero Exeter”, presumably based on indicative costs outlined in the plan, which are mostly given as minimums. Councillors gave Mr Hassan authority to explore new opportunities to secure investment and to create mechanisms for funding the programmes set out the plan.

They also noted that he would report further on how to deliver those actions in the plan which fell to the council once the council’s financial situation, which depended on whether further support would be available from central government, had been clarified.

Exeter City Council Executive Net Zero Exeter 2030 plan decision

Exeter City Council Executive Net Zero Exeter 2030 plan decision

The plan’s authors recognised that the pandemic may prompt further changes to the recommended actions, stating in the preface that “Exeter City Futures will listen to how people view the plan in light of the current climate and reissue this document towards the end of the year to incorporate these changing attitudes”.

Even without such changes there are elements of the plan that will be seen by some as not going far enough, for example the proposal to confine new 20 mph speed limits to “high-density areas” and the low bar that has been set for active travel modes.

On governance, councillors recognised that achieving many of the goals in the plan would require action by others than the city council. They agreed Mr Hassan’s recommendation that the council should approve the Liveable Exeter Place Board as “the appropriate body to adopt the Liveable Exeter Place plan on behalf of the city of Exeter”, on the grounds that the board “is the one body that already convenes many of the largest organisations in the city”.

It is not clear why the recorded decision referred to the “Liveable Exeter Place plan” and not the Net Zero Exeter 2030 plan.

The creation of the Liveable Exeter Place Board was agreed by the city council’s Executive in July 2019. Its composition and terms of reference were to be reported back to a future meeting of the Executive, but no report has since appeared.

A council spokesperson said its role is “to support the council in achieving and promoting its vision for the city” and that its members are “drawn from a diverse range of leading public and private sector organisations within the city and from national agencies”.

Its chair is Sir Steve Smith, the retiring vice-chancellor of Exeter University. Among its 23 other members are Lord Charles Courtenay, Earl of Devon, Matt Roach, Managing Director of Exeter Airport and Simon Jupp, MP for East Devon. The board meets in private and does not publish minutes of its meetings.

Mr Hassan’s recommendations were accepted in full by the executive, without comment from the leaders of the two opposition groups. They will be put forward for approval at a full council meeting on 21 July.

Exeter City Futures Net Zero Exeter 2030 plan cover

Exeter City Futures’ Plan for a Net Zero Exeter sets out a series of actions that local authorities, organisations and individuals can take, with associated carbon savings and cost, all of which Exeter will need to put in place in order to meet the city council’s target of a net-zero carbon city by 2030.

They include a city-wide low carbon mobility scheme, supported by integrated multi-modal ticketing, that improves movement into and around the city, making the city centre and core walking areas free from non-essential motorised vehicles, and revising the local plan to identify sites for new housing and commercial developments that can be served by quality public transport links and attractive cycle and walking connections.

Key figures in the plan include an estimated saving of 53,000 tonnes of carbon if all of Exeter’s electricity was generated from clean sources, and an estimated saving of 140,000 tonnes of carbon if Exeter were to exploit the maximum potential for renewable generation.

The plan is built on the understanding that success will only be achieved through a genuinely collective effort from everyone.

Dr Liz O’Driscoll, who led Exeter City Futures from its inception until April 2020, said: “[The plan] has been four years in the making with collaboration with the many different communities, institutions, organisations and individuals who make up our city.

“Everyone across Exeter has a role to play, this isn’t something that can be delivered by any local authority alone. This plan represents the contribution of hundreds of businesses and individuals across Exeter, who have engaged with us to set out the action plan to become a carbon-neutral city.

“Many businesses and individuals are now struggling to deal with the impacts of COVID-19 and this is likely to change the way the city views and responds to the plan. More than ever the city needs to come together to think about the kind of future that we really want, and make it a reality.”

The plan includes 26 priority actions that it says should be taken in order to maximise carbon reduction in the city. Some would have a very limited cost, such as encouraging organisations to use more renewable energy, while others, such as retrofitting housing stocks, could cost more than £100 million.

The indicative cost given for the launch of a city-wide low carbon mobility scheme, supported by integrated multi-modal ticketing, that improves movement into and around the city, is more than £500 million.

Underpinning the priorities is a set of specific actions that will need to be taken by Exeter City Council, by Devon County Council, and by organisations and individuals.

These actions are grouped into those that will be taken in the short term (by 2022), medium term (2023-2026) and long term (2027-2030).

Exeter City Futures’ work is intended to feed into wider planning by the Devon Climate Emergency Response Group. However the city has not signed the Devon Climate Declaration despite being a member of the group and it is not clear how the two initiatives will combine.

The full plan is available for download here.


 is a contributing editor of Exeter Observer and a member of its publisher Exeter Observer Limited.

 

 is a Local Democracy Reporting Service reporter based in Exeter.

 


Recent stories
Net Zero Exeter logo

Is Exeter City Council going to abandon its Net Zero 2030 target?

Interim Devon Carbon Plan consultation responses net zero target date preferences

Devon Carbon Plan consultation finds majority want net zero by 2030

Exeter City Council in session at Exeter Guildhall - Inauguration of Lord Mayor

High Court rules council meetings must resume in person after local elections

Electoral Commission ballot box graphic

2021 Exeter local elections guide

Met Office graph showing 2020 global mean temperature difference from 1850-1900

World Meteorological Organization report confirms "relentless" intensification of climate crisis despite pandemic lockdowns

Centre for Cities Exeter City Monitor graphic

Selective use of statistics presents an unbalanced account of Exeter's economic & environmental status

Support Exeter Observer


Join Exeter Observer

More News
Interim Devon Carbon Plan consultation responses net zero target date preferences

Devon Carbon Plan consultation finds majority want net zero by 2030

Devon Climate Emergency Response Group questions whether 2030 "realistic" and suggests "palatable" compromise while only 13% of consultees support UK government's 2050 target.

Exeter City Council in session at Exeter Guildhall - Inauguration of Lord Mayor

High Court rules council meetings must resume in person after local elections

Case seeking judgement to allow local authority meetings to continue remotely when temporary coronavirus regulations expire fails to override requirement for primary legislation.

Met Office graph showing 2020 global mean temperature difference from 1850-1900

World Meteorological Organization report confirms "relentless" intensification of climate crisis despite pandemic lockdowns

2020 set to be equal warmest year on record despite cooling La Niña while Internal Energy Agency warns post-pandemic economic stimulus expected to drive second largest annual increase in carbon emissions in history and UK emissions set to overshoot 2030 target by 40%.

All News
More Climate & Environment
Net Zero Exeter logo

Is Exeter City Council going to abandon its Net Zero 2030 target?

Review suggests alignment with Devon Carbon Plan, currently aimed at 50% reduction in carbon emissions by 2030 and net zero by 2050, citing "technical and financial challenges ahead", although change in policy would require decision by councillors after 6 May local elections.

Interim Devon Carbon Plan consultation responses net zero target date preferences

Devon Carbon Plan consultation finds majority want net zero by 2030

Devon Climate Emergency Response Group questions whether 2030 "realistic" and suggests "palatable" compromise while only 13% of consultees support UK government's 2050 target.

Met Office graph showing 2020 global mean temperature difference from 1850-1900

World Meteorological Organization report confirms "relentless" intensification of climate crisis despite pandemic lockdowns

2020 set to be equal warmest year on record despite cooling La Niña while Internal Energy Agency warns post-pandemic economic stimulus expected to drive second largest annual increase in carbon emissions in history and UK emissions set to overshoot 2030 target by 40%.

All Climate & Environment
Analysis
Electoral Commission ballot box graphic

2021 Exeter local elections guide

Elections for Exeter City Council, Devon County Council and the Devon & Cornwall Police and Crime Commissioner are taking place in Exeter on 6 May. Our essential election guide highlights wards and divisions to watch, changes taking place and how, when and where to vote.

Maclaines Warehouses beside Exeter ship canal

Maclaines Warehouses development tests Exeter Heritage Harbour status

Decisions taken behind closed doors in favour of commercial interests threaten maritime and waterway heritage vision for Exeter’s historic quay, canal and canal basin.

Exeter Guildhall needs repairs

£37.5 million council maintenance backlog caused by underinvestment to be part-funded by asset sales

Exeter City Council has allowed property assets to deteriorate while prioritising new schemes including the £44 million St Sidwell's Point leisure centre, forcing it to identify assets for sale to pay its outstanding repair bills.

All Analysis
Comment
Net Zero Exeter logo

Is Exeter City Council going to abandon its Net Zero 2030 target?

Review suggests alignment with Devon Carbon Plan, currently aimed at 50% reduction in carbon emissions by 2030 and net zero by 2050, citing "technical and financial challenges ahead", although change in policy would require decision by councillors after 6 May local elections.

Centre for Cities Exeter City Monitor graphic

Selective use of statistics presents an unbalanced account of Exeter's economic & environmental status

Exeter City Council's Chief Executive uses statistics to show the city in a good light, but in doing so presents a picture which omits important information about the city's true position.

Global lockdown pollution level changes

I'm a climate scientist – here's three key things I have learned over a year of COVID

A leading climate scientist's perspective on what the community has learned over the past year about the interactions between the pandemic and the current and future global climate.

All Comment
Transport & Mobility
Train at Okehampton Station in 2015

Okehampton to Exeter "Dartmoor Line" passenger rail service reinstatement confirmed

£40 million Department for Transport "Restoring your Railway" funding to enable trains every two hours by end of this year, with plans to increase to hourly service during 2022. Stakeholders combine to get South West infrastructure needs onto Whitehall agenda.

Pedestrians and people waiting at bus stop on Exeter Cowick Street

Council abandons temporary COVID-19 cycling and walking safety plans in Exeter city centre

Devon County Council cites "pushback" from traders as schemes on North Street, South Street, Fore Street and Cowick Street are scrapped. Meanwhile temporary changes in Topsham are dropped after "snap poll".

Cyclists, pedestrians and cars compete for space on Union Road, Exeter, 1 June 2020

Devon County Council fails to deliver promised COVID-19 cycling and walking infrastructure

Deadline for action on social distancing for safe travel set by county cabinet member passes despite Devon receiving £1.7 million share of government emergency fund.

All Transport & Mobility
Planning & Place
Empty retail units at The Depot Purpose Built Student Accommodation block on Cheeke Street in Exeter

Developer plans to convert retail units in Exeter city centre block to additional student bedrooms

Conversion of five of eleven shop/leisure units at The Depot on Cheeke Street would add nineteen rooms to existing 715 bedrooms in monolithic PBSA.

Maclaines Warehouses beside Exeter ship canal

Maclaines Warehouses development tests Exeter Heritage Harbour status

Decisions taken behind closed doors in favour of commercial interests threaten maritime and waterway heritage vision for Exeter’s historic quay, canal and canal basin.

Clydesdale and Birks development illustrative view

University plans to demolish 30 buildings to construct ~50,000m2 of new student accommodation

Permission sought for 1,250 new bedrooms on fifteen acre Streatham campus Clydesdale and Birks development site, half as large again as 1,200 bedroom East Park development.

All Planning & Place
Arts & Culture
Exeter Princesshay Debenhams closing down sale

Top floor of former Debenhams store to be converted into cinema

Princesshay owner's proposals for change of use to four screen cinema and cafe/bar have been under discussion since November 2019.

Preston Street Union present SERGE/SURGE at Cricklepit Mill

Preston Street Union rolls out the red carpet

The Exeter-based artists explore migration driven by the city's historic wool trade in new work commissioned by RAMM.

Photo of The Jambassadors by Gabe Riedlinger

Jambassadors feature in pop-up Jazz Toast at Barnfield Theatre

Musical director Roz Harding invites us to join an Exeter College Music Academy student collective in a one-night-only experimental exploration of in-the-moment improvisation.

All Arts & Culture
Democracy & Governance
Exeter City Council in session at Exeter Guildhall - Inauguration of Lord Mayor

High Court rules council meetings must resume in person after local elections

Case seeking judgement to allow local authority meetings to continue remotely when temporary coronavirus regulations expire fails to override requirement for primary legislation.

Electoral Commission ballot box graphic

2021 Exeter local elections guide

Elections for Exeter City Council, Devon County Council and the Devon & Cornwall Police and Crime Commissioner are taking place in Exeter on 6 May. Our essential election guide highlights wards and divisions to watch, changes taking place and how, when and where to vote.

Exeter Guildhall needs repairs

£37.5 million council maintenance backlog caused by underinvestment to be part-funded by asset sales

Exeter City Council has allowed property assets to deteriorate while prioritising new schemes including the £44 million St Sidwell's Point leisure centre, forcing it to identify assets for sale to pay its outstanding repair bills.

All Democracy & Governance
Education & Skills
Exeter University & College Union strike third week rally at St David's Church - Billy Bragg concert

University of Exeter strike ends third week with rally and concert at St David's Church

The Exeter branch of the University & College Union (UCU) is taking part in four weeks of national industrial action over pensions, equal pay for female and BAME staff, increasing workloads and the use of casual employment contracts.

Striking University of Exeter history lecturers Dr Jennifer Farrell and Dr Gemma Clark

University of Exeter staff strike over pay, pensions and working conditions

The Exeter branch of the University & College Union (UCU) is taking part in a national eight day strike for fair pay and pensions, including equal pay for female and BAME staff, and against casualisation and increasing workloads.

Rhian Keyse speaking at Exeter UCU's anti-casualisation campaign launch

Education union challenges university to address widespread casualisation of teaching staff

Exeter University & College Union (UCU) launched an anti-casualisation campaign on Friday as a prelude to negotiation with the University of Exeter over academic staff contracts.

Economy & Enterprise
Centre for Cities Exeter City Monitor graphic

Selective use of statistics presents an unbalanced account of Exeter's economic & environmental status

Exeter City Council's Chief Executive uses statistics to show the city in a good light, but in doing so presents a picture which omits important information about the city's true position.

Illustration showing how the new building will look when completed

Exeter Science Park STEMM "grow-out building" construction begins

A new specialist centre for fast-growth Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths & Medicine businesses will be completed by November 2021.

Small retail businesses on Paris Street, Exeter

Half of COVID-19 support grants unclaimed by Exeter businesses

Exeter City Council in bottom third of local authorities as only 45% of eligible local businesses claim government coronavirus support money.

All Economy & Enterprise
Community & Society
Great Western Hotel beside Exeter St David's railway station

Exeter rough sleepers in COVID-19 emergency accommodation face uncertain future

Exeter City Council has yet to confirm whether it will use any of the £2.15m Rough Sleeping Initiative funding it has received since 2018 to keep housing rough sleepers when government emergency accommodation funding runs out.

Night shelter for homeless and rough sleepers in Magdalen Street, Exeter (front)

Exeter rough sleepers night shelter to open all year round

Exeter City Council has approved plans to extend Magdalen Street night shelter opening from April to the end of September.

Sally Ride, America's first woman astronaut communicates with ground controllers from the flight deck

University of Exeter PRISM network champions queer STEMM pioneers

Exeter students celebrated the lives of polar explorer and botanist Elke Mackenzie, inventor, engineer and futurist Nikola Tesla and astronaut and children's author Sally Ride in winning LGBT+ network competition entries.

All Community & Society