COP27: A year of climate action for the City of Southend

With COP27 underway in Egypt (6 to 18 November), Southend-on-Sea City Council reflects on the past 12 month since appointing its first ever head of climate change.

Jo Gay, head of Climate change at Southend Council and Cllr Mulroney outside the Southend Climate Hub

In 2019 Southend-on-Sea City Council declared a climate emergency with the aim of achieving net zero carbon by 2030 for council operations and across the City.

And it’s now been a year since Jo Gay was appointed the council’s first ever head of climate change, to drive and embed climate action across the council and the city using an evidence-based approach.

Jo said: “With Cop 27 taking place, I have been asked what the council has been doing about climate change. The short answer is fantastic, focussed work.

“During my first year, we have concentrated on the evidence, understanding the scale of the challenge so that we can get our own organisation in order whilst supporting others to do the same.

“With over 50 completed actions carried out this year alone, the climate change programme is going from strength to strength.”

Cllr Carole Mulroney, deputy leader of the council and cabinet member for environment culture and tourism, added: “We know that prioritising the climate change programme across carbon mitigation, climate adaptation engagement benefits our city socially, economically as well as environmentally. A true win-win-win for all that live in, work in and visit Southend-on-Sea.”

Key Southend Climate Action milestones from the past financial year include:

Launch of Southend Climate Action website

The recently launched website, covers everything the council is doing to tackle climate change in Southend-on-Sea, and how residents and businesses can play their part to reduce carbon emissions and help save the planet. It’s updated regularly with the latest council news, resources, and initiatives related to climate change action.

Important information about the help available to pay energy bills this winter can also be found on the website. This includes the Warm House Discount, Winter Fuel Payment and Sustainable Warmth which offers grants to residents to make their homes warmer. There are also plenty of hints and tips for how residents and businesses can reduce their carbon footprint, improve waste and recycling, and reduce water usage.

Completion of four zero carbon affordable homes

March 2022 saw construction complete on the council’s first ever zero carbon affordable homes. The four homes are built on a disused garage site in Saxon Gardens in Shoeburyness and form part of a wider project to review the council’s underused land.

The council houses are classed as zero carbon because, along with the modern methods of construction, they feature energy efficient materials such as timber and innovative heating and cooling technologies such as solar panels.

The homes are also designed to be fully accessible and adaptable to ensure they are inclusive for people of varying needs to enable independent living.

Building climate resilience across Southend

More than 600 trees were planted by the council during the last financial year, excluding trees planted in new developments and by private landowners. We continue to work towards our goal of increasing our tree canopy cover from 12% to 15%, which is an increase of over 1km2, a rise of 20% from the current 5.17km2, and the equivalent of 150 football pitches. We only remove trees as a last resort and replace where we can.

Trees and planting are something we can all get involved in and we want people to think about how they can plant trees in their own gardens and for businesses to consider planting on their own land, so that together we create a tree canopy that contributes to our goal of becoming a carbon-neutral city by 2030.

Engaging with future generation

The council actively engages with schools, colleges and youth organisations through a series of initiatives including active travel, school travel plans and traffic calming measures at school pick up and drop off times, which improves air quality by reducing traffic and exhaust fumes from vehicles.

Our PlastiCity Roadshow was held in Southend in September attended by over 100 people from local schools, businesses, charities, and stakeholders. A new PlastiCity Pledge has also been announced to continue the recycling initiative across the City, and businesses and schools in Southend are invited to join.

Building Partnerships - The Climate Hub

June 2022 saw the official opening of the first ever Climate Hub in the City. Located at Unit F15 on the top floor of Victoria Shopping Centre (next to IndiRock), the hub provides a physical space for education and engagement. The aim is to unite residents, businesses, schools, universities, and faith groups in support of the council reaching net zero carbon emissions by 2030 and to embrace the challenges of the Climate Emergency Declaration made in 2019. The hub, which is run by the council, welcomed more than 500 people in less than 12 weeks, including residents, schools, and local and national partners.

What’s next?

New Green newsletter

For those who want to find out more about what the council are doing and hear first-hand the latest climate news, projects and schemes in our City, you will be able to sign up to our new green e-newsletter. Later this year, the council is launching an e-newsletter, directly to the email inbox of signed up subscribers. To sign up for the newsletter, please visit the Southend climate action website.

Green Homes and Sustainable Warmth grants

Following the success of the Green Homes Grant scheme which helped hundreds of homes in Southend stay warmer whilst reducing their bills and decreasing their impact on the environment, the Climate Change team are now actively promoting Sustainable Warm Grants.

This new grant offers energy saving home improvements such as insulation, renewable heating systems and double glazing. The grant is funded by the UK Government and managed by Warmworks with support from Energy Saving Trust. Visit the Southend Climate Action website to check your eligibility.

School Orchard

Eleven schools across the city have recently been provided with fruit trees which will help pupils explore plant growth and care, food miles and carbon foot printing. With potential future food shortages and oil price rises, teaching pupils how to grow their own food may be one of the most valuable skills we can give them.

Photos are available on our Flickr site.

Published: 10th November 2022

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