Leadership Blog: COP26 - Creating a greener future

By Cllr Carole Mulroney, cabinet member for environment, culture, tourism and planning.

Cllr Mulroney and Jo Gay at Gridserve Braintree

I attended an Essex-wide climate change event at GRIDSERVE in Braintree last week to kick off our local response to COP26 and show our continued commitment to combatting Climate Change.

In the last few years, the Council has declared a climate emergency and made Climate Change one of its top priorities. In Southend-on-Sea, we are committed to creating a greener future and work continues apace as we work towards our ambition of achieving Net Carbon Neutral by 2030.

GRIDSERVE is an electric forecourt for charging up to 36 cars at the same time, the first of its kind in the UK! The event saw representatives of the Electric Vehicle Drivers’ Associations stop here en route to COP26 in Glasgow to support the call for much faster transport decarbonisation globally fuelled by renewable energy.

Southend-on-Sea has a growing number of charging points which you can find on Zap Map and charging points are included in the plans for several major development schemes currently in progress including Better Queensway, Seaway and recently approved plans for Fossets Farm and Roots Hall.

The visit was also interesting in the context of our own plans for land at Prince Avenue. Earlier this year, the council agreed to carry out a feasibility study to determine what the land could be used for, and along with possibilities such as housing and a park and ride, we also believe that an electric charging station - perhaps similar to the one in Braintree - could be an option.

Year-on-year we are seeing more vehicle owners turn to electric vehicles and we have to adapt our policies to meet the needs of our residents; something 92% of our residents support in a recent survey.

Going forward, all new housing and commercial developments built in Southend-on-Sea will need to make provision for electric vehicle charging points. This policy was discussed on Tuesday and agreed, meaning planning powers are now strengthened to ensure developers contribute to the increase of electrical vehicle infrastructure. This will help us reduce carbon emissions across the town.

New Head of Climate Change

I was joined at GRIDSERVE by Jo Gay, the Council’s first ever Head of Climate Change. Jo is an experienced environmental sustainability professional and qualified town planner with more than fifteen years in local and regional government experience. Jo will lead on the delivery and strategic development of all aspects of climate change across the Council and Borough and develop and deliver our low carbon energy and sustainability strategy. I’ve already been very encouraged by Jo’s passion, enthusiasm and dedication. Jo has recorded a short video to introduce herself and outline her priorities for the Council.

By strengthening our leadership in this area, climate change is now a service area of its own and we can embed climate change action into all departments and areas of our work. This helps us to create stronger partnerships with our communities and surrounding local authorities resulting in enriched and shared education, innovation and knowledge – working together is the best way to beat the climate crisis,  

Inspiring young people

Environmentalist Greta Thunberg has been challenging world leaders to fix the world’s climate change issues and she is certainly making her presence known in Glasgow this week at COP26. Greta has helped to inspire a generation of young people to take notice and action through the school climate strike movement and our future is in the hands of these young people.

With that in mind the council published the following pledge in this year’s Essex Climate Action Commission Report:

Southend will be prioritising action to enable schools in the borough to support net zero and climate positive aspirations and to ensure that young people in the borough are involved in the decision-making process on net zero and climate positive action.

A lot of work has been done with schools such as installing the first ever ‘living wall’ to increase the thermal comfort of students during summer, car free school zones to reduce air pollution and car fumes and installing water panels which convert moisture into drinking water for staff and students and reduce the need of single-use plastic bottles.

For more information on how the council is playing a part in climate change action, see our list of 26 things the council is doing to help combat climate change as well as these plans and strategies:

We have also published a list of 26 things we can all do to help combat climate change. Collectively we can all help create a greener future.

Published: 5th November 2021

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