Cumbria County Council's Cabinet member responsible for environment has called on people at all levels to take up the challenge of reducing carbon emissions.
Speaking at the West Cumbria Community Conference 'Lifestyle Choice - Climate Change and Low Carbon Transition', Cllr Tim Knowles said that carbon reduction is no longer someone else's problem and "individuals, parishes, business groups and local authorities" all need to step up their levels of activity now to meet challenging new targets.
The conference, which was held at UCLan's facility at the Westlakes Science & Technology Park, attracted West Cumbria's leading politicians, business leaders and community advocates.
Cllr Knowles spoke of the progress being made already, highlighting examples such as wood chip boilers in Eskdale and plans for Cumbria’s largest energy efficiency and renewable retrofit of hard-to-treat, low-income homes on the west coast. "Finally we are seeing real leadership, with policies of energy efficiency being backed up with investment. We are witnessing the start of a change in culture in the way we use energy, procure goods and use transport," he said.
But he also pinpointed areas where more work needs to be done - such as 34% of homes in Copeland still having either no insulation or less than a finger’s depth of insulation in them.
"By encouraging businesses, communities and householders to tap into available information on energy efficiency, by harnessing national Government and European funding, by partnering utility companies and encouraging local procurement –the prizes of enterprise, new jobs, warmer homes, prosperity and carbon reduction are all possible.
"We cannot wait passively for these things to happen for us. In Cumbria, we need to be active, engaged and innovative. We need to be at the forefront of using the new feed-in tariffs for renewable energy generation, we need to share the best practice that is already here in Cumbria, but too often lies hidden.
"We need to make sure that Cumbria is not left at the back of the queue but starts at the front of it," said Cllr Knowles.
All local authorities in Cumbria and the NHS are now working with either the Carbon Trust or the Energy Savings Trust towards an agreed 25% cut in CO2 emissions from operations by 2014. Cumbria County Council has committed to achieve the 25% CO2 reduction target by 2012 as a sign of its strong commitment.
Cllr Knowles said achieving these challenging targets requires immediate action: "We need to ensure that the benefits of healthy and affordable ways to travel to work and to school are designed into new developments. With emissions from transport constituting 23% of the county’s CO2 emissions, we clearly need to encourage and enable people and businesses to opt for more sustainable ways of travelling. This is not simply a case of new infrastructure, but about behaviour change and exercising choice. Tackling climate change in Cumbria offers real benefits to us all. But we can’t just sit and wait for it to happen."
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