Mine water and electric buses could tackle climate change in County Durham

SOLAR farms, electrical car charging points in terraces and mine water heating systems are some of the ideas being considered for how County Durham goes about trying to become carbon neutral by 2050.

Durham County Council is considering options for how it is going to reduce carbon emissions and tackle climate change after declaring a climate emergency last year.

When it asked for people’s views during a public consultation held at the end of last year, more than 1,000 people put their thoughts and ideas forward.

Cllr John Clare, who is the council’s “climate change champion” said: “I’m working my way though them all – I will read every comment.

“I’ve only found about half a dozen who deny climate change, although I’m finding that the people who do deny climate change still care about the environment and accept carbon dioxide emissions do cause pollution.

“They are on board as well so there’s not much opposition to what we’re doing.”

Proposals for future policy are currently being put together ahead of a cabinet meeting early in 2020.

The council has started work on a number of projects it hopes will have a positive impact on climate change, including replacing street lights with LED bulbs, installing a solar farm at Tanfield Lea to power its biggest electricity user and developing an innovative new system at the Louisa Centre, in Stanley, which uses water from mines to heat the swimming pool and other parts of the building.

One of the major areas where emissions are still rising is in the county’s transport network.

Cllr Clare added: “When you look at the county, business and domestic emissions are dropping like a stone. Business emissions are dropping faster than ever because they understand it reduces costs as well. Domestic is following because people are realising they can save money – but the problem is that it can be a significant investment.

“Transport is not changing – that is the stubborn problem for climate change in County Durham.”

Electric buses on Durham’s park and ride, part of a low carbon transport hub for the city is something that is being considered for funding while County Durham has also been chosen as a pilot area to investigate how electric car charging points could be rolled out in hard to reach areas, including terraces and rural areas.

But what action is needed to tackle pollution is at times a point of dispute.

One of the most controversial council policy included in the County Durham Plan is a proposal to build new roads to the west and north of Durham to cut congestion and improve journey times.

On the other hand, campaigners against them say new roads lead to increased traffic and pollution and road building will impact on habitats, nature and biodiversity.

“There are truths in that,” said Cllr Clare. He added: “I can understand why people on both sides get cross. My point has always been that the tarmac is carbon neutral.

“It’s the traffic on it that creates emissions. So we must create traffic with massively reduced emissions.

“The east/west connections in Durham are appalling and they hold back the economy from growth.”

He added: “We can’t tackle climate change at the cost of people’s jobs.”

Source: Northern Echo, 5th January 2020