'Climate change is a very real danger' - what South Tyneside Council is doing to protect the borough
Climate change is a topic that is never far from the headlines
Here Councillor Joan Atkinson, the cabinet member for Area Management and Community on South Tyneside Council, whose brief includes environmental measures, talks on the issues facing the climate – and what steps the borough is taking to address them:
Climate change is a very real and present danger. As a council we take our responsibilities to reduce our carbon footprint very seriously and work to embed the green agenda in our policy making and the wider work that we do.
Already the council has brought forward schemes to reduce our impact on the environment. Our interventions have helped reduce carbon emissions by an estimated 48% since 2014/15.
We continue to deliver new and innovative energy solutions, including increased use of renewable technologies to reduce fuel costs and carbon emissions. Solar panels are fitted to 20 of our buildings, with more schemes planned.
Current projects include a proposed 900kW wind turbine to generate electricity for the Middlefields site and Heddon Way units.
The Council has been successful in attracting ERDF funding to develop the Viking Energy Network in Jarrow. This will use a cutting-edge river source heat pump to heat 11 council buildings and provide electricity.
Over £17million has been secured over the past eight years to deliver environmentally friendly work programmes across council homes.
Our five-year plan to help eradicate fuel poverty reduces energy consumption while giving residents the added benefit of lower energy bills. On our streets 26% of our lighting columns have been converted to LED lanterns with the remainder being converted in the next 3 to 4 years.
Conscious of the fear of flooding in an area that has both a coastline and riverside, already £15million has been invested to date in flood alleviation projects across the borough, providing an increased level of protection for properties and peace of mind for local people.
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Mindful that people need sustainable travel options, we are working with partners to improve public transport notably the South Shields Public Transport Interchange is set to open this summer.
Where people do need to use their cars we have invested in junction and road improvements that are designed to improve journey times, remove vehicle idling and cut emissions.
The network of electric vehicle charging points is now up to 26, encouraging the take-up of electric vehicles in the borough.
Trees play an important role in naturally improving air quality.
We are well on our way to meeting the Government’s target 12% tree canopy coverage by 2060 having almost 10% already and an additional 3,000 trees being planted this winter.
The Council’s drive on waste has resulted in a dramatic reduction in the amount that goes to landfill - now just 0.58%, a reduction from 66 per cent in 2010.
A new recycling transfer station is to be built at Middlefields depot over the next year to handle 12,000 tonnes of blue bin materials, which will help tackle the issue of cross contamination.
All of this action, and more, is making a positive impact and helping us tackle the devastating effects of climate change but there is still more to be done by each and every one of us.
Climate change is everyone’s responsibility, we must all do what we can but it is also up to the Government to be bold and take a lead to make legislative changes that both support and promote each individual to make the right choices in the limited time that we have.