Net Zero Task Force Meeting Minutes 14th August

Net Zero Task Force Draft Minutes 14th August 2020. Download a PDF copy of the minutes here.

Attendees

Sue Goodfellow (Vice Chair)
Kerry Hayes
Gill Westcott
Harry Bonnell
Nik Bowyer
James Shorten
Tim Jones
Ellie Rowlands
Emily Reed
Doug Eltham
Laura Cardenas
Lyndis Cole
Hannah Lawrie
Ian Bailey
Dan Lash (for agenda item 4 and 5)

Apologies:

Patrick Devine-Wright (Chair)
Iain Stewart
Cornelia Guell
Ian Hutchcroft

1. Minutes of the Previous Meeting

It was AGREED that the minutes are a true record of the discussion.

Outstanding actions carried over from the July Task Force meeting:

ACTION: Emily to pull together the best practice that is happening across the county that is complementary to the actions in the carbon plan. This will be part of the consultation questionnaire.  

ACTION: Tim to put the Task Force in contact with GWR & Stagecoach project to trial using hydrogen to fuel public transport in the South West. This will be picked up in September.  

ACTION: Emily to catch up with Lyndis about landscape considerations.

2. Questions and comments on the Net Zero Task Force Progress Report

Tim asked to what extent the Planning White Paper will affect the spatial planning actions in the Carbon Plan. There is a risk that the sustainability elements might disappear from the planning system as a result of the White Paper.

ACTION: Emily to circulate a paper from Sue regarding the role of nature in the planning system.

James advised that he has had two meetings with the Devon Planning Officers’ Group. At the latest meeting we discussed the White Paper. Climate Change is still in the White Paper, so the hooks are there.

3. Sharing draft actions with partners

The meetings with partners have completed.

There has been a range of perspectives on many of the actions. The feedback will be shared with each sub-theme leads in a tabular format. One column shows the original action, the second column shows the feedback from the partners, and the third column shows the proposed re-worded action. The topics will be shared with the sub-theme leads in turn. Food, land and sea will be the first to be shared in a few days’ time.

4. The role of Carbon Offsetting in the Carbon Plan

Dan Lash provided a summary of the discussion paper that the Centre for Energy and Environment has prepared to inform a conversation about the extent to which the Devon Carbon Plan should be promoting carbon offsetting as a solution to reach net-zero. The paper had been circulated to the Task Force ahead of the meeting.

Doug clarified that the Carbon Plan currently has actions about encouraging anchor institutions in Devon to engage with the formal carbon offsetting markets and indeed to bring about general habitat enhancement for carbon sequestration and wildlife enhancement purposes. So the purpose of this conversation is to decide whether the Plan should continue to take this approach.

Lyndis Cole – supports offsetting, so long as double-counting is avoided. Dan Lash advised that emissions can be counted in two separate footprints or geographies, but that this is not double counting, so we can be confident that double-counting is avoided through certified schemes.

Tim Jones – this is an important agenda for raising investment for decarbonisation, and there is an opportunity for Devon to lead on this, for example in the Biosphere. It’s wider than trees – it’s peat, grassland and marine assets amongst others. Dan Lash advised that carbon uptake between habitats is certainly different but others will be better placed to advised on the specifics of that. There is a difference between how the different sequestration opportunities will be captured in the Devon-wide carbon footprint data. There is a peatland carbon code that is emerging that should be supported.

Sue Goodfellow – Peat is certainly important, and Devon has significant resources. Tim Jones advised that the Biosphere is helping to develop understanding of the opportunities for peat but there are ownership issues as much of the deep peat is on common land.

ACTION: Emily to raise the extent to which Dartmoor and Exmoor are analysing peat reserves at the next Climate Emergency Tactical Group

Ian Bailey – Carbon offsetting will be an important aspect of managing the carbon footprint of agriculture into the future, however the uptake of land management activities through Countryside Stewardship that significantly contributes to carbon sequestration is not huge. This is potentially because it requires doing things differently and farmers have limited time to engage with new innovations, so we need to ensure we work with government to ensure the new Environmental Land Management Scheme (ELMS) rewards farmers for carbon sequestration. 

Gill Westcott said that she was reassured by the integrity of the Woodland Carbon Code. However, Gill remains concerned that offsetting can still be used as an excuse not to invest in genuine carbon reduction measures, particularly if the carbon markets don’t operate correctly and result in a low price for carbon. We heard at the themed hearings that there needs to be public policy support to ensure the price of carbon rises appropriately over the next 30 years to ensure the offsetting market drives investment in genuine carbon reduction measures first.

Lyndis Cole said that Devon’s woodland cover is probably already higher than the woodland inventory suggests, as the inventory only records woodlands over 2ha. Devon is rich in hedgerow trees and so the number will be higher – potentially double. Lyndis agrees with Ian Bailey’s comments and said that we must look forward to the new ELMS to fund appropriate measures to achieve carbon sequestration.

Laura Cardenas said that efforts must be on reducing emissions first before carbon offsetting is considered. Any offsetting must be through a certified scheme as we have to be able to verify the carbon sequestration. There are innovative opportunities for interaction between carbon sequestration and reduction measures – for example, cultivating seaweed as animal feed. Dan Lash advised that many organisations have set themselves very ambitious decarbonisation targets, well ahead of technology being available for them to achieve zero carbon, so net-zero through the offsetting market is their only option. It’s also not just about offsetting in the environment, there are further opportunities in energy efficiency, for example which is an opportunity to attract corporate finance into these other decarbonisation requirements.

There is a further risk that must be managed, which is that by storing carbon in peatlands, that carbon is then available to be released in the future if the management regime reverts to less favourable methods. Dan Lash advised that within the Woodland Carbon Code, the woodland is inspected every 5 years to ensure the carbon is still be sequestered. The same would apply to a code for peatland, which reduces this risk.

Tim Jones advised that the leadership opportunity for Devon is very real – Devon could become a region of excellence on navigating these issues.  Tim is adamant that carbon as a currency is going to become much more prominent in the next 5 years.

Sue Goodfellow noted that the carbon offset market is an opportunity to implement the Nature Recovery Network, which will be a win for wildlife.

James Shorten summarised that there appear to be good offsets and bad offsets, and they can either be used wisely or poorly. So, the Carbon Plan needs to describe these issues and focus on using good offsets, wisely.

Gill Westcott said that we need to think about levers that we can have influence over in Devon to influence carbon offsetting. Sue advised that one such lever is the farming advice that we hope to implement through the Plan.

Emily Reed summarised the conclusion as:

  • The carbon offset market is already operating
  • It’s an opportunity to use funds to restore natural capital
  • Offsetting shouldn’t be relied upon but should be part of a coherent strategy
  • We need to ensure quality advice is available to guide purchasers and developers of offsets to the good quality offset opportunities

The Task Force AGREED this conclusion.

5. Preparation of the Interim Devon Carbon Plan

A) How to decide on a final date to achieve a net-zero Devon

Sue outlined the conclusion of the discussion at the last meeting, which was:

  • 2050 as the target for net-zero in the absence of a credible scenario for this to be achieved earlier
  • But we need an interim target and an annual reduction target, noting that the ‘reduction ramp’ will probably not be linear.
  • The Plan needs to be front loaded with impactful actions to support the partners that have set 2030 as their decarbonisation targets. 
  • Trigger points to fundamentally revise the plan must be included, particularly where reductions are not moving at the required pace, including changes to international targets.

Ian Bailey picked up the discussion by saying that annual targets may be difficult due to natural variation and background noise, such as economic activity. Using them as a guide rather than absolute may be more prudent. A further point is that front-loading can cause partners to feel ineffective if they are set too ambitiously.

Sue asked Ian what he would propose. Ian advised that New Zealand is an interesting model, which has set 5-year carbon budgets up to 15 years out from now to get onto the right trajectory to reach net-zero by 2050. By keeping the carbon budgets near-term, it removes the opportunity for people to push their carbon reduction activities into the distant future.

Dan Lash advised that it would be possible to prepare carbon budgets for Devon against the 2050 deadline following the CCC scenario but doing it for another deadline for which we don’t have a credible scenario would be less helpful. Decarbonising earlier than 2050 would be very difficult as Devon does not have the policy levers required.

Gill Westcott said that whilst 2050 will be a disappointment to many communities, we do need to be realistic about the powers available to the authorities in Devon to effect change. What we will need to show is that we have identified all of the policy changes needed nationally to bring the national decarbonisation date forward, and that we have actions in the Plan to work with government to implement those changes.

Laura Cardenas suggested targets for each sector might be possible to show that some sectors could make more progress earlier than others.

Hannah Lawrie noted that 2050 is realistic but we should consider the role of Devon as a global citizen. Some international research has suggested that geographies that are better placed to decarbonise than other global players should be looking to decarbonise in the 2040s to enable those that are less well-placed to decarbonise later into the 2060s. Hannah supports the idea of interim targets.

B) Update on Carbon Plan introduction and sub-sections

Emily advised that the introductory sections are nearing completion, incorporating feedback from the Task Force on ideas that have been aired at previous meetings.

Emily showed the Task Force what the Food, Land and Sea section is looking like ahead of sharing it with the theme-leads in the next few days for them to dig into the detail and provide feedback.

Emily advised that whilst the Plan will be shared with DCERG partner organisations as a PDF, the public consultation will primarily present the plan through the website, with print copies available on request.

Sub-theme leads will have a fortnight to provide comments back to Emily on the sub-sections, which will be delivered to each sub-theme on a conveyor basis. The sub-sections need to be completed by the 21st September so that Emily can stitch them together by the 5th October for sharing to the Task Force and partners as a whole document.

Tim added that we need to be sensitive about other issues going on during the consultation, particularly around COVID.

Nik advised that although the website will able to non-technical / compact version of the plan but consideration needs to be given to a non-technical print version, for accessibility purposes.

C) Critical Path diagrams

Andrew has paused his work whilst he awaits the final actions from the sub-themes.

6. Communications update

A) Plans for publicising the Interim Devon Carbon Plan

Ellie Rowlands has drafted a plan for communicating the consultation of the Devon Carbon Plan. Part of this involves videos of the Task Force members, which could be recorded via a video chat on Zoom with Ellie.

ACTION:  Task Force members to let Ellie know if they are happy to record a video on Zoom.

Ellie has scheduled a series of workshops for different stakeholders. Ellie will setup Doodle polls to find out which Task Force members would be willing and able to attend those workshops.

Ellie has developed thoughts on an ambassador scheme for the Carbon Plan, having had conversations with the Devon CC Waste Team who are closely involved with Community Action Groups. As part of the consultation we can approach community organisations to ask them which actions they feel are aligned with their activity which they could support and help implement in their locality.

Tim Jones encouraged for there to be youth engagement during the consultation.

B) Website update

Ellie advised the Task Force that work on the new website is continuing that will be used to communicate the Interim Carbon Plan.

The new website is due to launch in mid-September. Ellie showed the Task Force an outline of the home page. This has included a photo competition that asked communities to submit images showing their images of what they felt a net-zero Devon will look like. These images will be incorporated into the website.  

Each of the actions in the Devon Carbon Plan will be tagged so that visitors to the website will be able to select aspects of the Plan that they are interested in and to get suggestions of local activity they can implement to help decarbonise Devon.

Social media engagement continues to increase. The newsletter is now being distributed to 1300 people each month and engagement is strong.

Dan Lash noted that consumption emissions become particularly important when talking to communities. Dan’s team is attempting to produce a tool that could be used at a parish level to develop a consumption emissions calculator.

AOB

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