Report of the Town Clerk & Chief Executive.
The Committee received a report of the Town Clerk and Chief Executive containing a scoped and costed Climate Action Strategy for the City of London Corporation.
The Chair commented that this piece of work was of major corporate significance and that he and other Members, particularly the Chairman of Port Health and Environmental Services Committee, had been working closely alongside Officers in recent months to progress this.
A Member, also the serving Chairman of the Port Health and Environmental Services Committee, commented that taking action to address climate change was clearly a vitally important issue and that the development of this Strategy put the City Corporation on the front foot. He added that he had been clear from the outset that the Strategy must be impactful, deliverable and, above all, affordable. He highlighted that many Members had already attended various briefings on the Strategy in recent months and had offered their input into it for which he was very grateful. Members were informed that the report before them today was a data driven, evidence-based strategy on Climate Action that tracked all of the existing, relevant City Corporation strategies into it, not least the Transport and Air Quality strategies. At its heart was a set of target based actions that would have a comprehensive performance and reporting freamework wrapped around it. The Member went on to state that, probably for the first time, the City Corporation were looking to approve a Strategy alongside a medium-term funding plan to enable the Corporation to deliver what it set out to. He reported that there were, however, no in-year funding reallocaions and it was proposed that the actions were funded from the next financial year, from April 2021 onwards. Thereafter, funding would continue to be allocated on an annual basis in the round with Climate Action established as an improtant priority but certainly not the only priority. The Member conclude by highlighting that this Committee had three clear action sets set out within the paper.
In terms of Governance, Members were informed that the Strategy was to be received by a number of Committees ahead of final approval by the Policy and Resources Committee and, ultimately, the Court of Common Council in October 2020. The Strategy had also been the subject of numerous Member Briefings in recent months. Officers reported that delivery of the Strategy was to commence in April 2021 and would be regularly reviewed and monitored throughout. Members were informed that this Strategy aligned with and built on other, existing City Corporation strategies and policies including the Transportation Strategy and also picked up some of the unfunded elements of these.
A Member stated that, whilst he strongly supported the Strategy, he had some concerns around the financing of it and stated that it was important for Members to note that Capital spending injected here would mean that other Capital Projects would have to be deferred or reprioritised, at least in the medium-term.
Another Member commented that, whilst she appreciated that this was not the only corporate priority, it was important to realise its importance and the fact that it was presently the highest corporate risk to the Corporation, taking in two aspects - resilience and net-zero. She added that the proposals put forward today had already been refined by the Resource Allocation Sub-Committee in recognition of the fact that there were other existing priorities within the Corporation. She added that, from a personal point of view, she was extremely supportive of the Strategy and hoped that it would be a useful starting point from which the organisation could go much further.
The Member went on to question matters specific to this Committee and referenced the fact that ambitious planning requirements had led to 75% of new commercial developments with over 20,000m2 floorspace achieving at least a BREEAM ‘Excellent’ rating since 2014. She questioned whether this included whole life carbon and whether this Committee agreed that there should be explicit reference to the need for refurbishment as opposed to demolition wherever possible within this document. Secondly, the Member referred to the pilot study on a new logistical hub to manage and reduce freight vehicles and emissions and the money set aside for this purpose which she understood to be in the region of £400,000 and was to be funded from the Climate Action Strategy budget. She added that, under the Transport Strategy, this was supposed to have been embarked upon already and that she was therefore disappointed to see that the only reference here and the only work undertaken to date was a pilot study. She questioned whether the organisation could, instead, commit to introducing a fully functioning freight logistics hub which was clearly needed and questioned whether more money should be budgeted for this purpose.
Officers reported that the achievement of BREEAM ‘Excellent’ ratings on properties to date had assisted with the journey towards net zero but that the development of the Climate Action Strategy had determined that the organisation needed to go much further than this across the board, in relation to transport as well as buildings. Members were informed that BREEAM as a standard was a mixture of environmental requirements on buildings, one of which related to whole life carbon/embodied carbon, although it was quite easy to select other environmental performance criterion to achieve a rating, sometimes at the cost of whole life carbon. However, this was acknowledged and the work set out across the board to deliver this Strategy was around increasing the energy efficiency and decreasing the carbon intensity of buildings that the City Corporation operates and leases and also to encourage other building owners in the Square Mile to follow suit. It was also acknowledged that the organisation needed to develop new materials and building specifications going forward to address this point. The Member thanked Officers for their response and questioned whether this Committee was able to stipulate that they felt that there should be explicit reference to embodied carbon and the need to avoid demolition wherever possible within the Strategy. The Director of the Built Environment commented that the Local Plans Sub-Committee could be asked to consider this as embodying this within the City Plan would make it a material consideration for this Committee when making decisions. The Chair stated that he would be amenable to having reference to this in both documents.
With regard to freight consolidation, Officers commented that there were actually three aspects to this that were often conflated under the term ‘consolidation’ within the Transport Strategy. One of these was last mail delivery hubs (using space within the Square Mile to transfer items from vans to walking deliveries or cargo cycles). Members were informed that work was already underway on this aspect but that there had been some delay to the process due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This Committee would receive a full update on this at a future meeting. As this was a commercial opportunity no funding was required. Secondly, the Transport Strategy stated that, by 2022, a preferred supplier for consolidation would be identified to serve the City and support those businesses that want to consolidate as well as those developers that were required to consolidate as part of their planning permission. This matter was still under consideration although Members were informed that the market around consolidation had recently matured quite considerably, largely because of the City Corporation’s planning requirements around it. Thirdly, Officers reported that the work referred to within the Climate Action Strategy (a sustainable logistics centre) was the largest aspect of consolidation and had a target of 2030 within the Transport Strategy although it was noted that this could be brought forward with the Climate Action Strategy providing a useful opportunity to accelerate this. This was set to result in a dedicated centre serving the City which combined not just freight consolidation and the grouping of deliveries into fewer, fuller lorries, but also things such as the potential warehousing of the most frequently ordered items. It was this piece of work that the pilot/feasibility study referenced within the Climate Action Strategy would be looking at in terms of helping Officers to understand what this should look like and the longer-term investment needed to deliver this. It was also noted that there were likely to be commercial opportunities around this as opposed to it being a cost to the City Corporation in the long term. Officers commented that the funding identified within the Climate Action budget for this work would help to deliver this aspect slightly ahead of where it was intended to be under the Transport Strategy and was a good example of how the two strategies complemented one another.
Another Member commented that he was very supportive of this substantial piece of work. However, he expressed his fear that with lower economic activity, lower levels of construction and lower levels of people coming into the City, the organisation were potentially building up false pretences in terms of performance and progression in this field. He questioned whether Officers could therefore explain how measures around per capita or economic activity might be possible in order for Members to gauge real progress in the City. Officers reported that there were various pieces of work progressing at present across different Departments looking at City activity levels and economic levels generally all of which were feeding into the Corporate Performance Framework. Through this process, Officers would, over time, to be able to triangulate. In the meantime, those guiding the Strategy would need to keep this very important point in mind. The Chair added that performance here was very much about the attractiveness and sustainability of the City and would therefore go some way to enticing people back into the Square Mile.
A Member spoke to reassure Members in terms of the finances around the Strategy and how they had been developed on a marginal costing basis and not in isolation but in tandem with other parts of the organisation as projects come forward. However, like all Strategies, these evolved over time and therefore budgets set aside from the outset may not necessarily cover what is required in future. For this reason, an annual review of the finances associated with this strategy had also been built in. This would enable the Strategy to be tweaked where necessary and for resources to be directed to the right place at the right time throughout. He added that the budget for this Strategy had been identified on top of existing commitments meaning that money would not necessarily be taken away from other priorities to fund this. He echoed the earlier words of the Chairman of the Port Health and Environmental Services Committee in saying that he believed that this was the first time that the organisation had developed an overarching Strategy such as this and also developed the funding that goes with it.
Another Member echoed the concerns of a previous speaker around false positives and underlined that he was of the view that things in the City would change significantly as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic in terms of more people working from home or returning to offices on a part-time basis only. These changes would impact upon the City with those who did return in due course requiring more personal space and perhaps improved ventilation, all of which would ultimately impact on the Climate Action Strategy in the immediate future. He questioned whether the Strategy would be flexible enough to reflect this. Officers reported that public consultation had been carried out post-COVID, for a seven week period over the Summer, throughout July and August 2020. This had generated over 2,600 responses, 44% of respondents were City workers who had, indeed, indicated that they would like to see more space allocated for cycling and walking in the Square Mile. This was therefore already being reflected within the Strategy. Officers reassured the Committee that they would continue to engage with the public both on the Strategy as a whole and on the individual projects that sat within the delivery programme.
A Member commented that she wholeheartedly supported the Strategy and the direction of travel around Climate Action generally, noting that this was an area that was likely to evolve rapidly. Reflecting on the papers, she commented that she was particularly interested to read goal C, concerning the City of London influencing UK and overseas organisations to become climate responsible and how it would do that. When looking at all of the actions set out, she noted that the vast majority of these were very UK centric – where they were global (for example improving the transparency and global standardisation of sustainability reporting) they were very broad and grand. She therefore questioned whether the City of London Corporation’s influence could really be this far reaching and global over the next five years. She also questioned whether all of the goals set out were equal in terms of priority and spend. Officers reported that this was core business for the organisation and that the core stakeholders in this context were the City and its financial services. That being said, the organisation also had an international role to play and a need to show leadership. One of the ways that this would be done was via the conference being planned for November 2020 at which this Strategy would set the bar for Climate Action. With regards to the different goals set out, Officers reported that the first two goals around net zero and resilience would enable the Corporation to continue and to do much more around the third goal. All were therefore interlinked as opposed to listed in any order of priority. The ultimate goal was the essentially the third in that the organisation wanted this to be a resilient City within a climate that worked for everyone.
Another Member commented on office lighting and the fact that the document placed a lot of emphasis on hardware and on BREEAM but the much harder challenge would be around behaviours and teaching those within buildings how to use the hardware correctly. Secondly, he commented on the Flood Management Strategy which covered not only flooding from the River Thames but also from heavy downpours and referenced how the City ought to be designed to absorb some of this excess water. He stated that this was currently at odds with the Public Realm Manual which only contained the use of totally impermeable material. He suggested that the Streets and Walkways Sub-Committee be asked to consider this. Officers responded to the point around behaviours agreeing that this would be an extremely important element in terms of implementing this Strategy and highlighting that there was clearly a need for a campaign of some sort to help people understand what role they could play in helping to drive this forward. There were also various layers of enforcement that could be considered. It was emphasised that effective control of energy would not be driven purely by new technologies and that better energy monitoring equipment had been provided for across the Strategy to enable Officers to be able to determine where demand hotspots were located. Things like building energy management systems that enabled better controls to be put in place would also be important but it was recognised that this had to be done in concert with the operating teams of individual facilities which also brought into question things like governance, performance management and target setting. With regard to Flood Management, Officers recognised that the manuals written would need to be updated accordingly and that this Strategy would be one of the drivers for this. It was reported that Officers were already actively considering this matter and how best to update the design manual for public realm as well as the SPD that supports it.
A Member thanked Officers for a very important and coherent strategy. He went on to question how the Strategy would be implemented, who would be co-ordinating and driving the work. Secondly, he commented that this appeared to be a top-down approach and queried how the budgets for this had been established. He noted that this Committee had an allocation of £2.98m p.a. over the next 5 years but was unclear as to how this had been arrived at. Officers responded by stating that the co-ordination and implementation of the Strategy would be closely managed by the Policy and Resources Committee given that it was a key strategy for the organisation. Regular reviews and monitoring would form a part of this. Details of how this would work at Member level would be included within the report to the Policy and Resources Committee. At Officer level, conversations were underway with those leading on the Target Operating Model to ensure that the capabilities required were being built in. Relevant Chief Officers would also continue to be closely involved throughout. In terms of finances, Officers explained that the finances across the Strategy had been built up through an extensive bottom-up exercise. Officers had begun by looking at what teams were currently doing, particularly around hotspot issues such as emissions and, with the help of external consultants, identifying which actions would be most effective that also meet the affordability test. For each area, a budget had been worked up for the next 5 years around the actions required. Other metrics such as job creation, had also been factored into the paper. A Member added that finances for this particular Committee had involved looking at currently unallocated amounts of CIL and on-street parking reserve funds. There was an appreciation of the fact that this was also an investment case and that the implementation of the Strategy would drive a reduction in costs to the City Corporation that could be captured/ringfenced and put back into the Strategy to help deliver future stages.
A Member commented on Member input/oversight on the delivery and review of the Strategy and suggested that Officers consider appointing Member Climate Action Champions for this work from each of the Committees focused on this area. She noted that this was something that Friends of the Earth listed as a key recommendation in their guide for Local Authorities on Climate Action. She suggested that the Champions should not be the Chairs or Deputy Chairs of the respective Committees and that they should meet quarterly to review progress. She asked that this suggestion be put to the Policy and Resources Committee in due course. Officers reported that governance was something that was being actively considered at present and undertook to take this suggestion forward.
RESOLVED – That the Committee note the report, the draft Strategy at Appendix 1 and the action sets by Committee at Appendix 2.