Rother’s Climate Strategy 2023

Rother District Council’s (RDC) Climate Strategy, 2023  

Rother District Council released its draft Climate Strategy 2023 (v4) in early November 2023, which will go to the Overview and Scrutiny Council meeting at the end of November to be formally adopted. They have already published their own Environment Strategy, 2020, on which this report is based, and it is working towards a Climate Action Plan 23-26, and a Climate Strategy 2030. .

This  ‘strategy’ is 26pp long and is actually a progress report, as to where Rother is with regard to addressing the Climate Emergency. The search for a quotable policy or strategy fails to bring up any demonstrable statement in  a couple of lines. The only comments relate back to the commitments made in 2019 when Rother signed up to the emergency and pledged to do what was within its powers to make Rother a carbon-neutral district by 2030.   It also says ‘reduce emissions to net zero, RDC’s operational emissions should be reduced by 50% annually’. At their recent presentation (8 Nov in Bexhill) the authors said there are 45 ‘pledges’.

There is a lot on net zero in this report (33 refs) as opposed to carbon neutral (3 refs). (The term neutral is being phased out by Rother (as zero aligns with LETI and the RUK Green Building Council).

A graph on emissions shows that they are all declining slowly, targets being met gradually.  Other facts and figures stand out. ‘Emissions account for over 90% of the Council’s carbon footprint in 22/23. The Council does not have direct control over these emissions (or measurements) but can use its influence through policy and procurement to reduce these emissions’.

The strategy does have five objectives;

  1. The built environment will be low carbon and climate resilient.
  2. The need to travel will be reduced, those that do will be on foot, bike, public transport, or in a low/zero carbon vehicle.
  3. The district will produce less waste and support a thriving circular economy.
  4. Nature will be in recovery across the district.
  5. Renewable energy will be produced local

This comes down to five areas ‘1  Buildings and Energy Efficiency, 2 Transport, 3 Resource Consumption and Waste, 4 Biodiversity and Land Use and 5 Energy Generation.’

Rother does have a Vision   ‘A climate-resilient Rother where communities are well-equipped to deal with the challenges of climate change and are no longer contributing to global warming,  and an Aim: The aim of this strategy is to enable, encourage, and accelerate the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions across the district to net zero by 2030.‘

On renewables it does not have a statement on community projects, such as solar farms, but it does say ‘The Council will encourage local generation of renewable energy to support future demand.’   There is a lot in the report about making money for the council using council land for renewables (not so much on boosting energy on private lands).  ‘The Council will encourage domestic renewable energy generation throughout Rother through collective buying schemes such as Solar Together. Decarbonisation support and grant funding will also be provided to businesses.’  Rother now makes available 20% of CIL money for worthy projects. Rother state that ‘Clean, renewable energy will be produced locally’. (item 5 under Objectives 1).

There is nothing in this Climate Strategy on the energy efficient Wunderhaus which has been approved, and promoted, in Rother.

There is nothing new on Dark Skies as both the Rother’s Local Plan and AONB’s upgraded policies on Dark Skies are still awaited.  Both of these have been a long time emerging.

On Well-being (being a tenet of the 2019 climate emergency as signed by Rother) is mentioned here as  ‘ Light pollution negatively impacts wildlife and affects people’s health and wellbeing’. Walking, and footpath use, is not mentioned as being part of well-being, despite ‘a third of Rother residents are age 65+ (32.3%), ranking second highest in the country,’ and 2023 being one of the hottest years on record.  ‘East Sussex County Council estimates the population of Rother to increase by approximately 12.5% by 2035’.

Decarbonising.  Rother is engaged in retro-fitting buildings across the county, it being an ‘enormous challenge’ in the built environment to seek energy efficiency, ‘Most buildings already in place will still be here in 2050 and almost all of them will require some degree of retrofitting to be net zero. There are over 42,000 homes in Rother and the way we heat and power our homes accounts for 32% of emissions in 2021. Added to this are commercial, industrial, public sector and agricultural buildings..  The Council will continue to retrofit operational buildings to improve energy efficiency.’

On Biodiversity the council reminds itself it has a Biodiversity Duty to respect nature and conserve and enhance, as stated in The Environment Act 2021. As 82% of Rother is in the AONB it is not surprising that it relies heavily on what is said in The High Weald AONB Management Plan which is a statutory guide for conserving the nationally important landscape and provides a framework for addressing the major issues faced including food and energy security, housing provision, biodiversity and climate change resilience, and the transition to the low carbon economy. The State of Nature Report (2023) has brought attention to us all of the parlous state of the worlds habitats, flora and fauna, and Rother now says it will integrate the aims of the Local Nature Recovery Strategies (LNRS) into its conservation thinking. When it comes to measuring the net gain of any new development Rother will now be seeking a net gain of 20% from all projects instead of the national 10% proposed in The Environment Act to start in January 2024. It has been a long time coming, now at v.4 beset with fundamental algorithm errors.

This Climate Strategy reminds us we only have seven years left until 2030, so will they, and all of us,  deliver?