February 2020 Newsletter Comment – Net Zero in the West Midlands 

Recent months have been dominated in large part by one thing, the declarations of net zero carbon targets. This topic has been the talking point of many meetings and events and has now led to nation-wide declarations that the UK must address.  

In 2019 the UK Government became the first major economy in the world to pass a target to achieve net zero, stating that all greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions will be net zero by 2050. This cemented the need to move toward ‘clean growth’ with organisations of all sizes and sectors following suit and declaring their own net zero targets.  

Across the West Midlands local authorities and public sector bodies are doing just this. The West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) have declared their plans for achieving carbon neutrality by 2041. In their #WM2041 discussion paper, the WMCA set out 74 measures aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions each year. The paper is currently open for consultation until March 12. 

Our member local authorities have been working hard to determine their own appropriate targets and action plans to prioritise delivery. The City of Wolverhampton Council are consulting on their draft strategy and are looking to achieve carbon neutrality for their own operations by 2028 (consultation closes tomorrow). Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council have aligned themselves with the WMCA and have stated that they will achieve carbon neutrality no later than 2041. Coventry City Council were amongst the first in the West Midlands to set targets for reducing carbon emissions. They achieved their target, to reduce CO2 emissions by 27.5% by 2020, six years early in 2014. However, they have yet to set a net zero target. Staffordshire and other local authorities have also committed to achieving net zero in line with the UK wide target of 2050.  

In total, 18 of 32 local authorities across the region have set their targets for achieving carbon neutrality for their own operations at least:  

  • Birmingham: 2030 
  • Cannock Chase: 2030 
  • Herefordshire: 2030 
  • Newcastle-Under-Lyme: 2030 
  • Solihull: 2030  
  • Stafford: 2030  
  • Staffordshire Moorlands: 2030  
  • North Warwickshire: 2030 
  • Rugby: 2030 
  • Shropshire: 2030 
  • Sandwell: 2041 
  • Stratford-on-Avon: 2030 
  • Telford and Wrekin: 2030 
  • Walsall: 2050 
  • Warwick: 2025  
  • Wolverhampton: 2028 
  • Worcester: 2030  
  • Worcestershire: 2050 

SWM have been pushing forward the agenda for achieving net zero carbon emissions. We have updated our Sustainability Roadmap to 2030, updating it for the next decade. We are working with numerous organisations to develop their approach to reducing GHG emissions including many businesses, large and small.  On Monday we were in London with Microsoft and impressed by their recent announcement not only to be carbon negative by 2030, but to remove their historical carbon emissions by 2050! 

Declaring a target isn’t the answer to the climate emergency. Knowing where you are starting from and your benchmark position is essential. Having an evidence-based strategy and action plan which is supported at all organisational levels is critical. Monitoring progress and open reporting are good practice. We can all lead by example.  

Our next event ‘Counting Down To Zero’ takes place on 23 March in Coventry. This is an opportunity to hear from the WMCA, City of Wolverhampton Council and Keele University on their response to Net Zero. We’ll discuss the co-benefits of climate action as recently reported on by Ashden, and experts from SWM and our members Ecuity will be on hand to work through key areas including buildings, transport and energy. We hope to see you there.