Council’s tree planting scheme approved in bid to become carbon neutral

County councillors have agreed for the authority to invest in a new tree planting initiative in a bid to help it become carbon neutral by 2030.
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Northamptonshire County Council outlined its carbon footprint at a cabinet meeting this week, and revealed it had reduced its own carbon emissions by 72 per cent since 2008/09.

But after declaring a climate emergency in June last year, it still has work to do to meet its target in ten years’ time. No specific tree planting target has yet been set, but in order for the council to become ‘carbon neutral’ it will require the planting of roughly 300,000 extra trees.

During the meeting at One Angel Square on Tuesday (March 10), Conservative councillors on the cabinet agreed for the authority to invest £20,000 in each of the next five years to reinstate its tree planting program. This investment will carry into the new unitary council that replaces it next April.

The tree planting scheme was agreed at One Angel Square this weekThe tree planting scheme was agreed at One Angel Square this week
The tree planting scheme was agreed at One Angel Square this week

Cabinet member Councillor Jason Smithers said: “We can work to become carbon neutral by either planting more trees to add to the 600,000 trees that NCC already owns, mostly on our highways, or explore opportunities in renewable energy sources such as solar panel initiatives which cabinet are asked to approve in this report.

“The county council, in partnership with the Woodland Trust, has already facilitated the planting of 250,000 trees in the county [over the last 11 years] and plans are underway to further invest in a new tree planting initiative for the tree planting season later this year.”

He also outlined that the council’s 72 per cent reduction in emissions – which mostly came from reducing energy usage in its assets – had saved the authority £9.6 million.

Of its current emissions, the majority (60 per cent) comes from historic landfill sites and the methane it produces. The council admits that the fumes from those sites remain a ‘technical and financial challenge’. The latest report states that the only way to retain a balance would be to ‘offset’ in other ways by reducing the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

Currently the council’s 600,000 trees collectively absorb around 13,000 tCOe tonnes each year, and the cabinet report states a need to plant an extra 300,000 trees to deliver the required 6,700 tCOe tonnes per year reduction in order to be deemed ‘carbon neutral’.

Labour councillor Danielle Stone said: “I have to say I was really pleased to read this report and I’m glad to see so much work has been going on. But I do have some questions.

“I noticed what is said about landfill in this report, and we know it’s alarming having methane from landfills. I noticed the mitigation for that was tree planting, but are there other mitigations being thought about?”

She also questioned whether the county council was still targeting the 2030 date to become carbon neutral.

Responding to those points, Councillor Smithers said: “The whole idea of this policy is that it is constantly being refreshed so we’re taking into account everything that is happening. We have a limited lifespan now, so going into unitary will make it easier to amalgamate a lot of these things.

“With regards to the 2030 goal to become carbon neutral, that is the plan. It’s a non-binding agreement on the executive but it is the plan that this county council will hopefully be carbon neutral by 2030.”

The cabinet meeting also saw agreement that the authority should ‘explore opportunities’ to harness solar power by looking at potentially investing in photovoltaic panels to be placed on council owned land.