Crawley Observer Column, Wednesday 10th February 2021

Hope is incredibly important. It’s vital for getting us through our current challenges and the work of rebuilding our local economy post-COVID. Be in no doubt, Crawley’s best days are yet to come. So, while I make no apology for raising attention to problems which the council lacks the powers to resolve on our own, I’d like to focus this week on an area we have made significant headway recently: the climate emergency.

Crawley Borough Council declared a climate emergency in late 2019, the last major contribution of Geraint Thomas before we lost him, yet perhaps his most lasting. Three workstreams stemmed from this declaration.

The first workstream has focused on understanding the town and council’s current CO2 emissions, their sources, and how they can be neutralised. To achieve this the council formed a scrutiny panel tasked with undertaking the work, recruited a Sustainability Manager, and commissioned studies to assess emission levels. After over a year of hearings, the panel’s final report has been produced and its recommendations will be going to the next Full Council meeting for approval.

While the panel deliberated, the council immediately undertook various direct carbon reduction initiatives, including banning any future investment in fossil fuels, producing a sustainable transport strategy for Crawley, creating tougher environmentally-friendly planning requirements for new developments, ensuring new council houses are built to ultra-efficient Passivhaus Standards, running a collective buying scheme for residents wanting solar panels, and using the Town Hall redevelopment to roll out a District Heat Network for the town centre.

Lastly, we’ve been working with neighbouring authorities to advance projects at scale, such as delivering electric car charging points across West Sussex and working with Greater Brighton councils to assess how we can make all council housing carbon neutral. At the same time, Manor Royal has been looking to roll renewable energy production out across the district, while Metrobus are shifting their fleet onto hydrogen.

Crawley has already secured a leading place in the shift towards carbon neutrality, but more still must be done. We won’t stop until the climate emergency no longer poses a risk to any resident.

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