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Herefordshire Zero Carbon and Nature Rich

The county-wide action plan and how you can make a difference

Getting the county to net zero

Herefordshire context

Herefordshire is considered to be the West Midlands' most rural county[1].

The county has rich biological and geological diversity which is becoming increasingly vulnerable to the effects of climate changeLarge-scale, long-term shift in the planet’s weather patterns and average temperature.

Significant areas of Herefordshire are low-lying and liable to flooding. Climate change will further increase the risk and events of flooding (including flash flooding) across the county. Additionally, climate change will result in a loss of biodiversity and landscape character, together with an impact on agricultural practices leading to increased water demand.

The aim of the project is to plot a pathway to net zeroBalancing the amount of emitted greenhouse gases with the equivalent emission that are either offset or sequestered. for Herefordshire. However, this is a complex task with lots of interdependencies. Allocating an accurate CO2 reduction figure next to every action at this stage is therefore very difficult. More work will be required across every area to achieve this. It is expected that the first steps on the pathway will be to further investigate the potential savings for each of the proposed actions. For now figures used are indicative and are intended to demonstrate potential pathways rather than an absolute, accurate map.

Where are the emissions coming from?

The graph below shows where the emissionsEmissions are any release of gases. in our county come from. Transport, electricity, gas and other heating fuels account for most of the greenhouse gasA gas in the atmosphere, such as carbon dioxide, methane, and ozone that absorbs solar heat reflected by the surface of the Earth, warming the atmosphere. emissions in Herefordshire.

Graph showing the percentage of Herefordshire emissions

Industrial and commercial electricity accounts for 13 percent of the county's emissions, while gas and other fuels used in industrial and commercial operations account for 24 percent of the county's emissions.

Domestic fuel use mimics this pattern but is slightly lower in both instances with domestic electricity accounting for 7 percent of Herefordshire's emissions and gas and other fuels accounting for 18 percent.

Agriculture accounts for 7 percent of our county's emissions.

Land use is actually a negative value, while settlements and croplands generate emissions, grassland and forest actually absorb emissions from the atmosphere and lock them away, thus the result is a negative figure.

Transport accounts for a large portion of Herefordshire’s emissions, 36 percent.

Herefordshire Council's activities which cover the entirety of the county and our emissions account for 1 percent of the total.

To achieve net zero everyone must first reduce emissions by cutting back on unnecessary actions. In all sectors the approach first looks to reduce the current energy demand. However, in order to meet net-zero targets, significant changes to buildings, transport and industry are also required. As more uses are found for clean electricity, overall electricity demand will increase. This will put additional pressure on the network that distributes electricity to our homes, which in Herefordshire already has very little extra capacity.

Buildings will also need to be retrofitted to lose less energy and over the next decade nearly all new cars and vans as well as boiler replacements will be low carbon, primarily electric. Technology will be used to generate clean, renewable energy before finally the remaining emissions are offset by increasing coverage of woodland.

Please take a look at the Action Plans as a starting point. They include key actions over the coming years to kick start the process, they may even set a vision for net zero but they are not a complete pathway to net zero. To get there we need you - every individual, community, school and business has a part to play. The plan is a live, iterative document and there will be lots of opportunities to contribute to its development over the coming years. This is just the starting point.

The local impact

If global temperatures continue to rise, then in Herefordshire we could expect the maximum temperature of the hottest day of the year to continue to increase, the number of days that exceed 25c increase, the number of days it rains in the summer would decrease but it would be heavier causing flash flooding. Floods would likely become more common in the winter as well. See the BBC's What will climate change look like near me page.

Flooding

One of the most obvious local impacts of climate change is the increase in frequency and severity of flooding in Herefordshire.

Herefordshire Council works with the emergency services, the Environment Agency, the Met Office and the utility companies to tackle flooding within the county. Together with other partner authorities and key stakeholders in Herefordshire, the council have produced a Local Flood Risk Management Strategy.

For more information on flooding, including how to prepare for a flood, reporting floods and support after flooding please visit Herefordshire Council's after a flood page.

Getting involved

This is just the start of the journey, we want to know what you think will help get the county to net zero and nature rich, understand what you are already doing and hopefully inspire you to come along with us on this journey. Considerable funding will be required from a wide range of sources and some difficult decisions will have to be made on our journey. We will all need to work together to make Herefordshire zero carbon and nature rich by 2030. Find out how to get involved.

Offsetting

Achieving net carbon zero will mean that we will have to deal with emissions that remain after all possible actions have been carried out. Some sectors such as transport will not be able to get to zero emissions and so offsettingSometimes called a carbon credit, offsetting is balancing out your own carbon emissions by supporting projects that reduce carbon elsewhere. that remaining carbon through sequestration will be required. Carbon sequestrationProcess of capturing carbon emissions and storing them underground. is the process of capturing and storing carbon dioxideGreenhouse gas produced by animals during respiration and used by plants during photosynthesis. CO2 is also the by-product of burning fossil fuels., for example by planting additional trees that absorb carbon dioxide and store the carbon.

Cross cutting themes

The environmental and ecological emergency is cross cutting so a number of themes run across multiple subject areas. These inter-linkages are highlighted below.

Energy

There are a number of factors that will affect our future energy usage. New homes will no longer be able to be heated by gas by 2025 meaning it is likely that heat pumps will become the most common source of heating for new properties. There is, however, some uncertainty because gas could be replaced by hydrogen as an energy source for heating homes.

Depending on the standards new houses are built to their overall energy requirements could decrease. In addition, the efficiency of existing homes should continue to improve by insulating walls, lofts and improving their doors and glazing. In addition to the heating of our homes, our transport is becoming increasingly 'electrified' with the sale of diesel and petrol cars to be banned by 2030. This will see an even greater move to electric vehicles with a likely increase in the number of hydrogen powered vehicles also.

Power distribution networks, or the local energy grid, is currently constrained in the county meaning there is little extra capacity to allow for the additional renewable energy we will need to generate. Improving the local grid to allow for the increase in future energy consumption will be required over the coming years.

A number of grants are currently available to support the deployment of renewables, particularly in the community sector. Large scale deployment of renewables such as solar farms will have an impact on land use and will need to be part of a larger conversation about this finite resource.

Housing and buildings

As previously mentioned the future of heating homes is likely to move towards electricity while retrofitting homes with insulation and more efficient appliances will reduce their consumption. In addition to this, new build developments and potentially existing buildings may include provision for carbon sequestration such as wooded areas, trees, hedgerows or conservation areas. This also requires land and therefore joins the wider land use conversation.

Transport

In 2020 we saw a large move to people working from home where they can. We will likely see less people in offices and more people working from home in the future, altering demand for more home energy use rather than at work.

As we continue to move to more active forms of transport including cycling, walking and public transport we will need to continue to improve and add infrastructure to support this. This infrastructure links in to the conversations about buildings as well as land use. New developments or existing businesses may, for example, include cycle parking and changing facilities as well as traffic free paths and other infrastructure to support active travel.

As additional infrastructure is added to support active travel, it can be built greener, incorporating tress, hedgerows and biodiverse verges, in addition to the improvement of existing areas, this joins the wider land use conversation.

Land use and farming

To ensure the county can grow its own food, generate its own energy, travel sustainably and support population growth, land use will have to be considered very carefully. By planting additional trees, hedgerows and other biodiverse areas such as wetlands for offsetting, the use of land and competing priorities must be considered. By working to increase biodiversityAll the different kinds of life you'll find in one area. Includes the variety of animals, plants, fungi and micro-organisms. county-wide and promoting low carbon farming practices and local sustainable food produce, we can work towards a more sustainable future for the county.

Waste

A significant proportion of our waste we generate at home comes from food. This has implications on both the amount of food we need to produce and therefore the land required to produce that food as well as the emissions generated from landfill.

Large, heavy and relatively inefficient vehicles to drive across the county to collect our waste. The less waste we produce, the fewer collection vehicles we would require. On the other side, upcycling older items rather than throwing them away would impact on land use. Emissions and upcycling old bicycles would have a positive impact on transport.

Food

The production of food is a major consideration for land use. Along with on farm processes, they are the largest contributors to emissions related to food. Food accounts for around a fifth of UK emissions. However, as a country around a third of all food is wasted. This waste again has implications not only on emissions of production and disposal but also on land use. Food and food waste also require transportation, depending where the food is produced that may be locally or overseas.

[1] https://understanding.herefordshire.gov.uk/economy-place/topics-relating-to-the-environment/