Richard Cleaver, leader of Wiltshire Council and chairman of the Countryside Climate Network, argues that Britain will never reach near-zero unless rural areas play a key role in cutting carbon emissions.
If you live in the countryside, you are more attuned to the weather than if you live in the city.
Not only does climate affect farms and gardens, but rural areas may also be more vulnerable to severe weather conditions. It was only in January this year that the Avon River breached its banks and flooded the village of Raybridge near Chippenham, blocking major local roads.
We are certainly improving our flood protection, but we are all well aware that severe flooding is occurring with increasing frequency and partly to blame for climate change.
County council leaders like me in rural areas are determined that Britain must act immediately.
As part of the UK100s Countryside Climate Network, a new report Rural Net Zero, just published, championed by local leaders like me, explains what needs to be done.
One of the most serious findings of the report is that a person living in a rural area emits far more carbon than a person living in a city. When it comes to transportation and industry, we emit twice as much carbon as city dwellers.
This is because many of us in rural areas have to use cars as they have no viable alternative. And the highest carbon emitting industries such as cement making and papermaking have factories in rural areas. Mineral mining and energy production also contribute to higher emissions.
This means we have an additional responsibility to live in and act as rural leaders, especially if we welcome the Prime Minister’s ambitious and ambitious target of cutting carbon emissions by 78 percent over the next 14 years.
This is a tricky one. Urban areas have benefited from a lot of public investment in low-carbon technology and infrastructure while rural areas have been left behind. Cities have also benefited from scale.
It is easier to rebuild multiple houses in a city than many houses located miles apart in villages and settlements. The density of population means that cities can also effectively invest in low-carbon district heating systems that produce communal recycled energy for thousands of homes and businesses.
Public transport is lacking in most rural areas in England, often linked to subsidies of fixed buses rather than more flexible on demand services and calls for local councils to encourage people to use bicycles or walk due to distances. There are fewer opportunities.
Digital connectivity in rural areas is still not as good as it should be. This means that while bus timetables cannot be easily digitized and other services may be less efficient, providing adult social care in rural environments is far more complex than in urban environments with longer travel times.
And the national grid has concentrated its capacity in cities where demand is high, so if you want to produce renewable energy in rural areas where wind and sun can be captured in abundance, the grid can’t take it. !
There are many challenges here for the national government, which needs to help us improve rural infrastructure over the next ten years to meet our ambitions not only to create a modern rural area but to reach net-zero. Needed.
But if the conditions are right, we can contribute to rural areas as well. As local leaders we need to argue for government incentives as well as making the case for onshore renewable energy better – we have the ability to do our job, we need to be clear about that. Second, we can help with carbon sequestration by reforesting areas and planting thousands of trees as well as seeing how we use old mines and other underground spaces for carbon capture. .
This will not only help with rural emissions but will help offset carbon emissions from industries like aviation that would be difficult to reach net zero. Third, we can work with farmers and landlords, changing farming practices to reduce emissions and digitization can make this a lot easier.
As local leaders, we want to work with the government to make this happen.
We want to be a partner in developing and supporting practical climate solutions in agriculture and land use. Better transportation and connectivity, renewable energy and insulated housing will also have major benefits for our population, including improved public health, easier access to services and greater biodiversity. In the longer term, this would also mean fewer floods!
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