OPINION: We can't take our eye off the threat of global warming

Neil MacDonald with solar panel

Solar panels are being installed on council properties which are being re-roofed - Credit: Ipswich Borough Council

Following two years of Covid and the current horrific events in Ukraine, climate change has dropped down the headlines but that doesn’t mean that global warming isn’t still the most pressing issue facing our planet.

Ipswich Borough Council, along with many other councils, has pledged to take action to make the council “carbon neutral” by 2030 and has published a comprehensive plan setting out how we will achieve this.

This is something we have been working on for some time and the Council has already reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 66% compared to 2008.

We installed solar panels on sports centres and sheltered housing schemes early on and these are taking advantage of the previous “Feed-In Tariff” regime to give a triple benefit of lower energy bills, lower carbon emissions and extra income.

Existing council houses have had their insulation increased and we have started a programme of installing solar panels on council houses which are being re-roofed. A large part of the cost of installing solar panels is the scaffolding needed so we can reduce the installation price substantially by using the same scaffolding for two jobs.

All new council houses are constructed to high sustainability standards with good insulation and solar panels wherever possible.

These measures are not only cutting greenhouse gases but also saving our tenants money on their bills as energy prices continue to soar.

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In future we will start to see new council houses built with charging points for electric vehicles and non-gas heating.

We have embarked on a comprehensive programme to replace the Council’s vehicle fleet with electric vehicles and recently purchased our 50th vehicle. These also have the benefit of being cheaper to maintain and helping to improve air quality.

We have installed more than 100 charging points for electric vehicles, including in our public car parks, to encourage their take up.

We have replaced the small number of streetlights that the Borough Council owns with LED lighting. They are much cheaper to run, and we have ploughed the savings back into paying for them to be kept on all night. This is something I would urge Suffolk County Council to do with their much larger network of streetlights in Ipswich.

We have won funding to plant nearly new 3,000 trees and the new replacement composting toilets we have installed in some of our parks use much less energy than traditional toilet blocks.

Some of the energy-saving projects we’ve undertaken may seem quite simple but can make a big difference. For instance, we have just installed a cover for the competition pool at Crown Pools. This stops heat loss overnight so much less energy is required to keep the water at the required temperature for swimmers.

With gas prices rapidly rising and Crown Pools as one of the Council’s largest users of gas, this project will rapidly pay back the money spent on it.

We have started work on the provision of a completely new carbon-neutral depot for the Council’s works department.

The Council will never be able to generate all the energy it uses so we have also committed to only buying zero-carbon electricity and green gas.

We have recently started a new recycling collection service for coffee pods.

And I was very pleased to announce last week that the Council has agreed to purchase the woodland off Mitre Way. This important wildlife site has been the subject of planning applications from developers who wanted to build on it. These have, up to now, been successfully refused but the best way to guarantee that the woodland is preserved for future generations was for the Council to buy it.

I’d like to put on record my thanks to White Elm Woodland Community Interest Company who contributed towards the purchase price of the wood.

There’s still a long way to go but Ipswich Borough Council is doing its bit to tackle global warming.

- David Ellesmere is the Labour leader of Ipswich Borough Council.