Council And Serc Set Out Climate Change Positions

Is Down embracing climate change ?

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Is Down embracing climate change ?

SERC and Newry Mourne Down District Council have been asked by Down News to clarify their ongoing work on the issue of climate change.

Given the complex nature of the responses from these institutions, it is clear that their officers are working on this difficult issue whilst trying to cope with the effects of Covid-19 and Brexit.

Our environment is under pressure from changing climatic conditions. Check out climate strategies from two key agencies in Down.

Sometimes key ‘information’ can get lost in the frenetic noise of the media. Recently, youth members of Lecale Conservation, an environmental group based in Downpatrick, expressed their concerns at key agencies falling short of meeting the requirements of addressing climate change. Below are responses from Newry Mourne and Down District Council and SERC openly setting out their tables.

Lecale Conservation has completed many environmental projects, and most recently is involvement in the rebuilding of sand dunes at Ballyhornan beach with the help of youth volunteers who also question responses by local agencies to climate change.

Down News will be seeking statements from other key agencies going forward to add to this body of knowledge from the two responses below.

Council Explains Its Position Around The Climate Emergency

A spokesperson forNewry Mourne and Down District Council say: “The Council declared a ‘Climate Emergency’ on Monday 7 October 2019 and directed management to effect dramatic short-term changes in every area under its control. The motion also required Council to follow best practise from across Europe to mitigate the impacts of Climate Change and to convene a symposium to assist and develop in an action plan to mitigate the impacts of Climate Change.

“A Climate Change Conference – ‘Our Climate – Our Challenge’ was held in March 2020 at Killeavy Castle. This high-profile event brought together a range of internationally renowned expert speakers as well as Councils and Community Organisations from across the UK and Ireland who have demonstrated best practice in dealing with climate change and who have achieved practical solutions and carbon reductions on the ground.

“Case Studies included:

  • The Rediscovery Centre, The National Centre for the Circular Economy Dublin
  • Cloughjordan Eco Village/Resilient Communities
  • Sustainable Transport – Sustainable Fleet – Dundee City Council
  • Community Energy – West Suffolk County Council

“The Council will consider these projects when developing our own Local Climate Adaptation Plan. To date we have delivered a number of climate related projects which will be the building blocks of our Adaptation Plan.  Examples of such work are highlighted below.”

  • Active Travel: The Council has worked with Sustrans to develop a draft Active Travel Masterplan which will recommend sustainable travel solutions across the district over the next 10 years including developing cycle paths and walking infrastructure, greenways, safer routes for cycling and walking in towns and rural areas for schools, work and leisure purposes. The Council has also carried out pilot projects promoting cycling in schools, bike maintenance and safety workshops for the community and the PHA led ‘Leading the Way’ programme to encourage employees to cycle.
  • Sustainable Food Places: The Council is part of the UK wide Sustainable Food Places programme which aims to develop a more sustainable approach to food in the district. The project covers issues such as food poverty, obesity, healthy eating, community growing, sustainable food farming, environmental impacts of food including on climate change, sustainable food businesses and food tourism. A multi-agency partnership has been established which will work together on tackling issues and developing an action plan to make our district a ‘Sustainable Food Place’.
  • Single Use Plastics Strategy: The Council has developed a Policy and Action Plan to phase out Single Use Plastics within the Council and to exert influence on external businesses, other agencies, and the wider community. This has already led to the reduction in the use of single use plastic items such as plastic forks knives, spoons or plates being used by Council.
  • Drinking Water Fountains: These are being installed in publicly accessible Council buildings to encourage the public to refill their reusable bottles as well as outside at several locations across the district.
  • Protecting our Peatlands and other habitats: The Council is Lead Partner for the CANN (Collaborative Action for the Natura Network) Project a €9 million EU INTERREG VA funded project covering Scotland, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. This programme is protecting and restoring our protected habitats including peatlands. Peatlands are important sites for wildlife and rare species but are also recognised as important ‘carbon sinks.’ This natural ‘Carbon Capture’ process will play an important role in managing climate change and protecting our biodiversity.
  • Biodiversity: The Council’s Local Biodiversity Action Plan identifies the priority habitats and species within our District and highlights actions to enhance and protect habitats and wildlife across the district. An example is the Red Kite programme in partnership with RSPB which has reintroduced and protected Red Kites, an important and threatened species of bird. Re-wilding of some areas has taken place recently as well as wildflower planting and management of council owned sites for biodiversity.
  • Community Growing and Sustainable Food: The Council has developed a Community Growing Network bringing together local community growing groups which is being coordinated by Social Farms and Gardens. The Network has held several workshops and encourages community groups to share best practice and network to develop their own local community growing groups, vegetable garden or farm garden or allotments for local people.  Through this network funding has been made available to several local groups to distribute Home Growing Kits (seeds, compost, pots and plants) –examples include the Castlewellan Dolmens Climate group and the Cabbage Patchers Group in Warrenpoint. 
  • Tree Strategy: The strategy is being developed by Council to look at increasing the tree coverage and planting more native and deciduous tree species across the district which are much better for our biodiversity. This could also include planting of mini community orchards across the district.

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SERC Plans To Deliver Courses For Green Technologies

South Eastern Regional College, also responded to the request for details of what they provide as a FE institution in terms of training in courses for renewable energy etc.

A spokesperson said: “We offer several green technology courses designed to up-skill, re-skill and provide innovation support for people working in the energy and renewable sector which include:

Electric car charging points will have to be installed in public places and homes by 2030 when petrol and diesel cars will be phased out. Are there enough trained technicians to install charging points?

• a Level 3 Award in the Installation and Commission of Electric Vehicle Charging Equipment in Domestic, Commercial & Industrial Locations,

• the Level 2 Traineeship in Motor Vehicle Maintenance and Repair which covers basic electric and hybrid vehicle maintenance and safety. (Students must understand the workings of any motor vehicle before progressing to electric and hybrid vehicles which are high voltage and require additional safety training.)

“SERC also offers Level 3 Awards in:

  • the Installation & Maintenance of Air Source Heat Pumps;
  • Installation and Maintenance of Small-Scale Solar Photovoltaic PV Systems;
  • Design, Installation & Commission of Electrical Energy Storage Systems;
  • Introduction to Low Energy Buildings;
  • Decarbonisation of Carbon Fuels & process innovation in HVO (hydrotreated Vegetable Oil)/Hydrogen Gas heating appliances.)

“All further and higher education colleges are funded by the Department for the Economy so programmes, including those delivered at SERC, are aligned to the needs of the local economy and the demands of changing political, environmental, societal, and technological impacts.”

Check out a related article below (click on link):

  • Down youth group members of Lecale Conservation express their concerns about work addressing the climate emergency