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Cambridgeshire at high risk from climate change, flooding and heatwaves, warns commission

Cambridgeshire and Peterborough are at high risk from the effects of climate change and face a future of flooding, heatwaves and water shortages, according to a new report.

The area’s greenhouse gas emissions are 25 per cent higher per person than the UK average, the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Independent Commission on Climate Change warns.

Flooding in St Ives on December 24, 2020., after the River Great Ouse burst its banks. Picture: Geoff Robinson Photography
Flooding in St Ives on December 24, 2020., after the River Great Ouse burst its banks. Picture: Geoff Robinson Photography

And its report adds that the region pumps out so many emissions that we will have “exhausted all of our ‘allowed’ share of emissions to 2050” in just six years unless drastic action is taken now.

Baroness Brown, chair of the commission that compiled the report, said: “Urgent action is necessary – both to play our part in delivering the UK’s ambition to achieve net zero emissions by 2050, and to prepare for the impacts of climate change.

“It is a big task. But we have the resources – in our businesses, farming communities, academic and research institutes – and most importantly our people, to rise to that challenge and become an exemplar for the rest of the country.”

Stagecoach has been investing in electric buses
Stagecoach has been investing in electric buses

The main source of emissions in the region is from transport (excluding flights), accounting for 44 per cent of greenhouse gases, compared with the UK average of 37 per cent.

Car ownership in the county is “high”, with the number of licensed cars at 620 per 1,000 people, compared with 495 per 1,000 in the UK as a whole. HGV mileage in 2019 was more than double the level expected purely on population, the report said.

Cambridge has the lowest transport emissions in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, while South Cambridgeshire and Huntingdonshire have the highest.

And with the exception of Cambridge, Cambridgeshire’s districts “rank badly” for car emissions compared with districts of similar characteristics.

Flooding in St Ives in December 2020. Picture: Geoff Robinson Photography
Flooding in St Ives in December 2020. Picture: Geoff Robinson Photography

Including peatland in measurements could add a further 45 per cent to the area’s total emissions.

The report claims that by the end of the century, based on current locations and not allowing for future development, nearly one in 10 homes and one in four agricultural and industrial production facilities could face river flooding. Communities, farms and industry in the areas of Wisbech, Whittlesey, Huntingdon, St Ives and the eastern edge of Peterborough “face the highest risk”.

The report estimates investment of around £700million a year will be needed throughout the 2020s to tackle these issues.

Included in the recommendations are:

  • A retrofitting programme to convert 350,000 homes to low-carbon heating so all existing buildings achieve high energy efficiency standards,
  • Ensuring all buses, taxis and council-owned and contracted vehicles operating in the area give off zero emissions by 2030,
  • Excluding diesel vans and trucks from urban centres by 2030,
  • Making all new buildings net-zero ready by 2023 at the latest and designed for a changing climate,
  • Completely phasing out cars running on fossil fuels by 2050,
  • Ensuring all homes and businesses have access to superfast broadband by 2023, and
  • Making home deliveries by zero-emission vehicles only, including cargo bikes, by 2030.

Cllr Rosy Moore, executive city councillor for climate change, environment and city centre, said: “Cambridge City Council has been working to tackle climate change for many years, and our new strategy, also being published this week, will set out our proposals for intensifying our efforts in the years ahead.”

Mayor James Palmer. Picture: Keith Heppell
Mayor James Palmer. Picture: Keith Heppell

The mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, and leader of the Combined Authority, James Palmer, said: “We will digest the full report over the coming days and weeks and look at how we can apply their findings to the important work we are doing in delivering economic growth for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough.”

Earlier this month, the Combined Authority approved the principle of a strategy that will explore alternative fuels for freight, buses – including Park & Ride services – taxis, highways maintenance fleet, vans, bikes and cars. It represents another step towards the wider roll-out of electric charging points.

Aidan Van de Weyer, the Liberal Democrat candidate for the mayoral position, said: “If elected on May 6, I will immediately adopt these recommendations in full, without caveats or quibbles, and get on with implementing them.

“The Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Commission’s report puts our work in a wider context, and shows how all the councils across the area, businesses and residents need to work together to achieve even more across issues such as transport, building, planning and energy.

Additional reporting: Ben Hatton, Local Democracy Reporter

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