East Sussex County Council (ESCC) issued a press release last week headed “Emissions drop as climate efforts continue”. It declared that its own carbon emissions have fallen by over 60 per cent since 2008. It also reported them as falling by 1,672 tonnes, or 13 per cent, in 2020/21 compared to the previous year, in line with its Climate Emergency Action Plan, which aims at complete carbon neutrality by 2050. 

However, a reading of the council’s recently issued Carbon Highlight Report for the year, which details the level of emissions from corporate and school buildings, the council’s fleet of vehicles, street lighting and its server centre, suggests that these reductions may have other main causes than the council’s own actions. One half of the fall since 2008 is attributed to coal being gradually replaced by renewables to generate electricity in the national grid. And while the council cites the completion of 14 low energy lighting projects on three of its sites and in 11 schools, the start of a first whole-building and heat decarbonisation scheme at Ninfield School, and the setting up of a programme of solar PV schemes on buildings, the Highlight Report indicates that much of last year’s fall was due to the closure of schools over several months under Covid-19 directions. Last winter, energy consumption in ESCC schools returned to levels measuring consistently higher than pre-Covid. 

CREDIT: Dave Young

“Showing commitment”

Nevertheless, Cllr Nick Bennett, deputy council leader and lead member for resources, said: “We have made some significant changes to our buildings and the way we work to more than halve our carbon emissions since 2008.

“We have a long way to go to reach our ultimate target but the results we have achieved so far show our commitment to getting there.  We will continue to work with all areas of our business and with partners to identify projects and funding that will support our efforts.”

I will be vigilant for any decision that does not support the wider county’s determination to become carbon neutral as soon as possible

Cllr Bennett

Readers may question how this pledge is consistent with another development programme with which the council, and indeed Cllr Bennett himself, are concerned. The councillor represents ESCC on the board of the development company Seachange Sussex. As reported earlier this month in HIP 182 (“Energy Partner Slams Seachange”), that company has come under fire for proposing to install gas boilers at its commercial site at North Queensway rather than rely upon a renewable energy system.


Asked to comment on this potential inconsistency last week, Cllr Bennett said – ““Following my recent appointment as Director of Seachange, I will be vigilant for any decision that does not support the wider county’s determination to become carbon neutral as soon as possible. I am sure my director colleagues in Rother District and Hastings Borough Councils will share that intention.”

Which may be difficult, given that Hastings has no current representative as director of Seachange following the resignation of Cllr Kim Forward two and a half months ago. A spokesperson for the borough council has told HIP that Cllr Paul Barnett will replace her – “we are currently in the process of having him appointed to the board” – but at the time of going to press no such appointment has been registered at Companies House.

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