“We need to do more to make a difference” said Cllr David Finch, Leader of Essex County Council as he announced the Essex Climate Change Action Plan and the creation of an independent cross-party commission on climate change.

The Climate Change Commission will meet later this year and be made up of members and experts in the field. The commission will have an initial budget of £250,000 to fund and support environmental initiatives that look to reduce CO2, reduce waste, promote sustainable transport and work to combat climate change.

Cllr Finch also announced the Essex Forest Initiative – a million pound tree project which will include planting 375,000 trees across the County over the next 5 years, equivalent to the size of 210 football pitches, which will capture 60,000 tonnes of carbon.

Cllr Finch said: “The time has come to actively demonstrate our commitment to climate change. Enough talking has been done, in order to have a future, we must act in the present, and the Essex Forest Initiative is an immediate tangible way in which we can show commitment to reducing our carbon footprint.”

Essex County Council is already showing its commitment to the threat of Climate Change and is undertaking the following steps: 

• Reducing energy consumption and carbon emissions e.g. replacing all streetlights with low energy LED bulbs,
• supporting residents and communities to purchase lower cost solar panels through our Solar Together scheme. The scheme has saved 300 tonnes of carbon in year one alone.
• installing solar panels on our buildings, saving 258 tonnes of CO2
• removing single use plastics from across the estate
• nearly 50% of our workforce are now using reusable coffee cups
• investing £50m a year in bus transport
• converting 60 buses to Euro VI lower emission standards. 
• encouraging residents to use public transport by improving the park and ride, installing electric vehicle charging and encouraging cycling
• we are also developing a Green Infrastructure Strategy
• we have created 63km of special roadside verges that are left wild to encourage the growth of rare flowers and support animal habitats
• we are protecting 1000 properties from flooding, often using innovative low carbon techniques, such as Leaky Dams
• 90% of materials linked to our highways’ works are being recycled
• working to ensure new Garden Communities are sustainable. Our ambition is for tens of thousands of new homes, entire communities of the future built to be as energy efficient as possible

To further demonstrate the council’s commitment to climate change Cabinet Member Cllr Simon Walsh will now be the ‘Cabinet Member for Environment and Climate Change Action’ and will work as part of the Essex Climate Change Commission, to:

• Explore changing the procurement rules requiring suppliers to adopt more stringent sustainable practices
• Change how residents travel, ensuring we prioritise and enable walking, cycling and public transport first
• Align with Defra's Recycling & Waste strategy, ensuring we have Zero Avoidable Waste by 2050
• Support the Greening of Town Centres
• Further consider how we can reduce our carbon footprint

Cllr Simon Walsh said: “Tackling climate change is everyone’s responsibility and we must play our part in tackling the biggest threat of the modern day. The creation of the Climate Change Commission shows our commitment to reducing emissions, energy usage and waste across Essex. The hard work starts now, but by working with employees, partners, businesses, residents and communities, we will build a greener future for the County.”