Chapter 11: Energy, climate change and sustainability (John Yard)

Chapter 11: Energy, climate change and sustainability (John Yard)

SDG Target 11.6: By 2030, reduce the adverse per capita environmental impact of cities, including by paying special attention to air quality and municipal and other waste management
SDG Target 11.9: By 2020, substantially increase the number of cities and human settlements adopting and implementing integrated policies and plans towards inclusion, resource efficiency, mitigation and adaptation to climate change
SDG Target 13.1: Strengthen resilience and adaptive capacity to climate-related hazards and natural disasters in all countries including desalination, water efficiency, wastewater treatment, recycling and reuse technologies
SDG Target 13.3: Improve education, awareness-raising and human and institutional capacity on climate change mitigation, adaptation, impact reduction and early warning


Our vision of a sustainable future for Canterbury is one in which a healthy environment, economic prosperity and social justice are pursued simultaneously to ensure the well-being and quality of life for present and future generations. Unfortunately, at the present time, in the city and elsewhere, peoples’ lifestyles are unsustainable and this is leading to climate change and global warming. More extreme weather patterns are being experienced, plus poor air quality, habitat loss in surrounding green spaces and an increasing risk of damage to heritage buildings from winter rains and flooding.  Additionally, we have an aging and poorly insulated building stock that is wasteful of energy.

As a society we are both consuming too much and creating excessive waste. This situation is unsustainable and we need to take urgent action which can only be addressed through policy changes. Since our last “Vision” in 2013, when we reported that Canterbury’s recycling rate was “good” (44% of household waste was recycle compared to the average at that time for Kent of 32%), we find that today Canterbury remains on 44% whilst the Kent average has much improved to 46% (Kent Resource Partnership).

The rest of this chapter will be concerned with how Canterbury can help to mitigate the effects of climate change by saving more energy, consuming more wisely and recycling more aggressively.

Achieving a more sustainable city

The situation is not all doom and gloom! Many of us in the city, i.e. as a Council, as businesses, as organisations and as individuals, are helping to make a difference. Indeed, at the time of writing in September 2019, the Council has just declared a Climate Emergency” and is setting up a Working Party to plan its strategy for a zero carbon Canterbury by 2030. Recent City Council initiatives announced are that their new offices will be carbon neutral, that trials of electric buses are about to commence and that all future planning applications will be assessed against climate change considerations.

Our main universities, the University of Kent, Canterbury Christ Church University and the University of the Creative Arts, have policies that are committed to promoting and achieving a reduction in their carbon footprints via their carbon management strategies and all have excellent waste recycling records.

The Canterbury Local Plan, also promotes a sustainable future. In chapter 7 – “Climate Change, Flooding, Coastal Change and Water Resources”, the Plan states that “planning plays a key part in securing radical reductions in greenhouse gases, minimising vulnerability and providing resilience to climate change”. The Council has recently adopted an “Emergency Climate Change” action plan and they are in the process of putting into place the necessary procedures and personnel for this to be successful. There are also countless other local initiatives including those from groups such as Canterbury and District Greenpeace, Swale Friends of the Earth, Canterbury Clean Air and the Abbots Mill Project. However, despite all these council policies, local initiatives and our individual efforts, environmental matters keep getting worse and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has now given their starkest warning yet that the planet may have just 12 years to avoid critical environmental changes.

To address the limited local sustainability initiatives, lifestyle changes are needed. Energy reduction is essential as is less driving and flying.  Leading a sustainable lifestyle has countless benefits. It increases community cohesion, decreases inequality, improves our health, saves us money, creates “green” jobs and is a source of hope for future generations.

We also need to learn from others, and ideally, from other cities similar to ours.  Freiburg, in Germany, for example, has for many decades had an integrated transport system, has promoted rigorous energy conservation measures, developed renewable sources of electricity and has adopted aggressive recycling policies. Many British cities are now following suit and Canterbury has an opportunity to be in the vanguard of British cities adapting to a greener environment and lifestyle.

In our summery version of the Vision published in March 2019, we proposed the way forward was for the Canterbury Society, possibly in partnership with the Sustainable Development Goals Forum to create an Eco-Forum for the city. This Forum would include the City Council, community groups, businesses, our universities, the County Council (a representative of the Kent Environmental Strategy Team), environmental interest groups and national/local renewable energy providers. The remit of the Eco-Forum would be to achieve a “Zero Carbon Canterbury” by 2030. We are pleased to report that at the time of writing in September 2019, the Eco Forum has been formed, has become renamed the Canterbury Climate Action Partnership (CCAP) and is in the process of agreeing its action plan.

CCAP’s goal of a zero carbon Canterbury by 2030 will be tackled via practical advice and action on issues such as draught proofing, insulation, heating, lighting, water, and energy storage. Renewable energy generation will deploy opportunities offered by wind power, solar energy, heat pumps and tidal power in the local area. A reduction in consumption will address issues such as “Think before you Buy” campaigns; stop buying single use plastics; buy only what is needed; buy products with no packaging; hire rather than buy; buy better quality goods so that items last longer and can be repaired; buy sustainable products and repair and reuse wherever possible. Aggressive recycling will also include issues such as better public information so as to avoid confusion about recycling.

CCAP are proposing that the starting point will be for the Council to instigate an energy audit/survey of the Council and the District and to produce a carbon reduction strategy/plan Such a survey will also provide the base line energy consumption on which progress can be measured each year until 2030.  It will also inform the policies and actions needed.

We further propose the creation, ideally via CCAP, of a community energy company for Canterbury, i.e. a Community Benefit Society set up to install and operate sustainable energy technologies locally.  Owned by local people via a share offer and run by a local board of directors, profits will be used to benefit the local “green” economy. Many such Community Benefit Companies operate throughout the UK.


It has been suggested that there is an urgent need for us all to reduce our energy consumption and accelerate to more sustainable lifestyles. Canterbury city could and should be leading the way to this more sustainable future. To achieve this will require a radical system’s change with more “joined up thinking” and more “working together”, binding the Council, the universities and all the major interested parties into an effective force for change. The change can best be promoted and enhanced through positive environmental stories in a wide range of media.


  1. All new homes and buildings in the City, passing through the planning process, to be net Zero Carbon by 2020 at the latest and refurbished building projects to be required to drastically reduce their carbon footprint by 2025.
  2. Setting up of a Community Benefit Society, ideally under the auspices of CCAP, to investigate and develop sustainable energy generation possibilities locally.
  3. CCAP to help organise an “Eco Day” for the City, a day on which events and exhibitions can focus on what Canterbury is doing to combat Climate Change. CCAP also to consider an annual Eco award, or similar incentive, to encourage businesses, schools and neighbourhoods to reduce their carbon footprint.
  4. The BID to instigate a “Shut that Door” campaign to encourage businesses to shut their doors in the winter heating season and in the summer if using air conditioning.
  5. CCC to improve information on recycling, especially the recycling of plastics, in an attempt to improve their recycling rates; the goal being to achieve a recycling rate of 70% by 2030 (as per the current EU target). All types of recycling bins to be offered free of charge to residents.
  6. CCC to replace general waste bins with multiple recycling bins in locations around the city.
  7. All of us to “Think Before We Shop”, and in order to reduce our consumption, to reuse and repair wherever possible before recycling, to shop sustainably and to stop buying single use plastics. We also need to encourage supermarkets, by our buying habits, to ditch plastic wrappings in favour of no wrappings, or where needed, the use of bio-degradable wrappings.

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