In conversation, Councillors Howard Doe and Vince Maple answer some of your questions.
Councillor Doe is Deputy Leader and Portfolio Holder for Housing and Community Services -
Why is it so important that Medway Council takes action to tackle climate change?
Howard Doe: Climate change is undoubtedly the biggest issue that faces our planet. It's important for Medway to play its part in creating a sustainable future for our younger generations. We want to exploit the opportunities that will come from reducing our carbon footprint, including using smart technology and creating new jobs. That's why we allocated an additional £100,000 in our 2020/2021 budget to support a number of initiatives the council is exploring.
How will the council decide what actions to take?
Vince Maple: We have worked closely with Kent County Council to produce the Kent and Medway Energy and Low Emissions Strategy (ELES). We need to measure Medway's emissions. We have already started this process and our next step is a carbon footprint assessment of our buildings and operations. We have also asked some of you to tell us what actions you think we should be taking, and we will continue to do this.
Can you tell us about some of the things the council has done since declaring a climate change emergency?
Howard Doe: Absolutely. We are becoming a single use, plastic free council. We are also supporting the initiative for Medway to achieve the status of a plastic free community. Later this year we will be promoting and encouraging publicly available water refill stations around Medway.
In his recent budget speech, council leader, Cllr Alan Jarrett committed to maintain our annual spend of nearly £4million on protecting and maintaining our green spaces. Our HIF bid for the Hoo Peninsular also included £14million investment in green infrastructure.
A funding bid has been submitted to support a Heat Mapping and Energy Masterplanning exercise, which will show us suitable locations and what is needed for a successful heat district network in Medway.
A solar panel scheme is in development with Kent County Council and other district authorities. We are also taking part in a government initiative to improve the energy efficiency of our buildings.
A successful trial of the first electric bus in Medway has taken place. We are now looking at how we can work with our operators to support the move towards low emission buses.
We will be creating more wildflower meadows on our grass verges. This will mean more than 100 miles of rural and urban verges supporting biodiversity.
We are currently reviewing our vehicle fleet to identify potential emission reductions and we also promote car sharing.
We are also looking at installing more LED street lights around Medway.
We continue to work with our residents and schools to encourage recycling and reduce waste to landfill.
What are the biggest challenges in Medway?
Vince Maple: As a result of the projected increases in our population, there will be a need to provide more homes and in turn, more energy. Add to this a growing economy and congestion issues and it's clear that there are some challenges ahead. We will respond by including climate change considerations into our strategies and processes to encourage future developments to be carbon neutral.
Howard Doe: We know that the effects of climate change can have a huge impact on public health. Young children, the elderly and those with existing health conditions are most vulnerable and we want to make sure these people aren't left behind.
Transport is one of the main contributors to carbon emissions across Medway. How will the council address this?
Vince Maple: Work will need to continue to support sustainable travel in Medway, including walking and cycling. Improvements are needed to make public transport even more environmentally friendly and, where possible, we will support public transport providers to achieve this.