Climate disaster in Peterborough and Cambridgeshire without ‘urgent’ green revolution costing billions - landmark report claims

A ban on diesel vans and trucks in urban areas and the mass roll-out of electric vehicle charging points are among measures proposed to combat the “severe” consequences of climate change in Peterborough and Cambridgeshire.

Monday, 15th March 2021, 11:00 am

A landmark report aimed at making the area carbon neutral by 2050 has outlined more than 30 recommendations which also include retro-fitting 350,000 homes at a projected cost of £3.5 billion and making public transport net zero by the end of the decade.

Other measures include introducing superfast broadband to all places by 2030, making sure all home deliveries are only carried out by zero emission vehicles and phasing out all cars running on fossil fuels by 2050.

The cost of all the proposals would be billions of pounds but would deliver cleaner air and high quality job opportunities, the report states.

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All cars running on fossil fuels could be phased out of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough by 2050

And without action the area could face “severe” consequences including flooding, high summer temperatures and water shortages.

The findings have been presented by the Cambridgeshire & Peterborough Independent Commission on Climate which was set up in 2020 by the county’s mayoral authority.

Led by Baroness Brown, chair of the Carbon Trust and former vice chair of the Climate Change Committee, it warns that emissions are approximately 25 per cent higher per person in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough than across the UK.

This does not include emissions from peatland which it is estimated would increase emissions locally by 45 per cent.

And in a stark warning about the urgent need for action, the report states: “We have only about six years remaining before we will have exhausted all of our ‘allowed’ share of emissions to 2050 if we are to play an equal part in delivering the UK’s critical Net Zero target.”

Baroness Brown said: “Emissions in our area are higher than the national average. We also face high risks from the changing climate - in relation to rising summer temperatures, water shortages and flooding.

“Urgent action is necessary, both to play our part in delivering the UK’s ambition to achieve net zero emissions by 2050 and to prepare for the impacts of climate change.

“It is a big task but we have the resources in our businesses, farming communities, academic and research institutes and, most importantly, our people to rise to that challenge and become an exemplar for the rest of the country.”

The scale of the challenge is laid bare in the report, the first of two which will be produced this year.

It focuses on the areas of transport, buildings, energy and peat, while the second report will consider waste, water, business and industry and the role of nature.

Proposals put forward in Monday’s report include:

. Completely phasing out of the use of cars running on fossil fuels by 2050

. Introducing charging points for all new developments with parking (as well as those undergoing extensive refurbishment)

. All buses and taxis to release zero emissions by 2030

. 100 per cent of homes and businesses to have access to superfast broadband by 2023

. A trial of electric on-demand buses

. Diesel vans and trucks to be excluded from urban centres by 2030

. Home deliveries should only be made by zero emission vehicles, including cargo bikes, by 2030

. All new buildings to be net zero ready by 2023 at the latest

. A plan by 2025 for every building to have a “clear pathway to full decarbonisation”

. A roll-out of home retro-fitting

. Annual funding of £50,000 to tackle peat emissions in the Fens and other climate change mitigations

. Creating a Climate Cabinet at the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority - the county’s mayoral body

. Introducing a green investment team

. Making all local authority actions carbon neutral by 2030

. Accelerating the county’s Doubling Nature ambition.

To deliver the necessary changes will require investment of around £700 million a year throughout the rest of the decade which will come from a mixture of public and private sources, as well as borrowing.

Residents in the area will also need to be motivated to play their part in delivering change.

The report says that by the end of the century, even without future development, nearly one in 10 homes and one in four agricultural and industrial production facilities could face river flooding.

The areas most at risk are: Wisbech, Whittlesey, Huntingdon, St Ives and the eastern edge of Peterborough.

One of the biggest areas which will require funding will be to retro-fit 370,000 homes to make them more energy efficient.

However, the cost of this is estimated to be £3.7 billion.

Another challenge is local transport from which emissions in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough have risen by 12 per cent between 2012 and 2018 - greater than the UK average.

Bus use has also fallen in Peterborough by 28 per cent from 2009 to 2020, compared to 18 per cent across England.

Emissions from road and rail transport make up around 44 per cent of CO2 emissions in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough compared to 37 per cent in the UK, although this is said to be lower in Cambridge and Peterborough than the rest of the county.

One of the unique challenges to the area is the drainage of lowland soils in the Fens for agricultural use which leads to previously stored carbon being released into the atmosphere during the drying out process.

The Fens is said to contain around 23 per cent of the area of lowland peat in England and Wales.

The commission was set up by the combined authority whose leader Mayor James Palmer said: “I’d like to thank Baroness Brown and all the member of the Climate Change Commission for their hard work in preparing this report.

“I was determined to ensure our response to climate change in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough was grounded in the evidence and real-world considerations and the commission have not let me down.

“We will digest the full report over the coming days and weeks and look at how we can apply their findings to the important work we are doing in delivering economic growth for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough.”

Peterborough City Council has previously declared a climate emergency and pledged to make all its activities carbon neutral by 2030.