WITH climate change at the forefront of people’s minds and Basingstoke declaring a climate emergency, this week we look at what Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council is doing and what more our readers can do to reduce their carbon footprint.

On a national level the government has said that the UK needs to be making steps to be carbon neutral by 2050.

As such the borough council declared a climate emergency in July in a bid to reduce its own environmental impact.

There is plenty of green space within the borough, with more than 90 per cent of the borough being undeveloped and the North Wessex Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty covering one third of the borough.

In addition, the borough manages over 80,000 trees and 100 hectares of woodland on its own land, whilst managing and maintaining 1,000 hectares of parks and open spaces.

Whilst the borough has significant green and open space and a high-quality built environment, the borough council said there “is no room for complacency” and members have signalled that they wish to take urgent action in light of the urgent threat that climate change presents.

In declaring a climate emergency, it is a sign that the borough council is dedicated to making a change.

However, the Basingstoke Transition Network (BTS), a pressure group which aims to improve the lives of people in the borough said there are steps that everyone can take to think greener.

Martin Heath, from the BTS said: “It is great that the council has declared a climate emergency, but if the council goes green, that is just a small percentage of the whole borough.

“We need to change our thinking if we want to make a change. We know that this isn’t going to be a quick fix and we don’t expect people to change things overnight.

“But if, as individuals, we can reduce our carbon footprint by 10 per cent each year then we will certainly be heading towards becoming carbon neutral.”

Mr Heath said that to do the main things that people can reduce is the use of gas and look at different forms of transportation.

He added: “We need to get people using less gas and eating less red meat. I don’t expect people to drop everything and go vegan, but if people have one meat free day a week and then increase it to two that would really help.

“Same with making a trip to the shop, rather than hopping in the car people need to think can they walk or even cycle.”

Already the borough council works to protect and enhance the environment and reduce the impact of its buildings and services on the planet.

Achievements include installing solar panels on several key council buildings, introducing fast electric vehicle charging points, working with partners to adopt a transport strategy focusing on encouraging more sustainable transport and introducing a ‘switch off’ campaign to prevent idling cars creating air pollution.

But the declaration accepts that more must be done and everyone needs to step up to pool the ideas, expertise, energy and enthusiasm of residents, partners, groups and businesses in the borough.

Now steps have been identified on what needs to be done next including a climate change summit to bring together ideas with partners and the development of a climate change and low emissions strategy.

These suggested steps also include: seeking advice from the Energy Savings Trust on the council’s fleet of vehicles to explore using electric vehicles; updating the borough’s Local Plan to ensure tougher standards associated with climate change and emissions, reviewing our accommodation and our staff and councillors’ travel.

Cabinet member for environment and enforcement at the borough council, Councillor Hayley Eachus said: “We are blessed with a beautiful green borough but we cannot be complacent. As a council we have chosen to declare a climate emergency and this means we need to build on the work already achieved and embrace change, working with others, to minimise our impact on the environment.

“As a local service provider and employer in the borough we have an important role to play and we will be looking at how we can deliver our services to residents in a more environmentally friendly way, while also working with staff and councillors to educate and change behaviours to work towards the ambitious target we have set ourselves.

“But this is not something we can do alone, our actions are a first step but we all have a collective responsibility as residents, employees or businesses to work together to tackle climate change and achieve a carbon neutral borough by 2030.

“Declaring a climate emergency was the easy part – the work starts now to pool the energy, expertise and enthusiasm of residents, businesses and partners in the borough and take action.”

Even though people are now thinking greener, including this paper, Mr Heath said he would like the borough to get to a point where it is self sufficient and can generate its own energy.

He added: “Groups like Extinction Rebellion have done amazing work to raise the profile and get the young voice on board, but this is no means the start of the end.

“This is like waking up to the fire alarm and we haven’t even put on slippers on yet. There is plenty we can do and we need to take action now.”

For more on the BTS visit basingstoketransition.org.