The Isle of Wight’s Footprint Trust, which was set up in 2002 to reduce the Island’s ‘ecological footprint’, has given the Council praise for its progress to date. However, it has also stated that it fears with the departure of CEO Joe Duckworth the EcoIsland vision could be sidelined in the future.
The educational charity is very complimentary on the Council’s commitment to reducing its own CO2 emiisions, and thus fuel use, by 4% per annum. A target set with the Carbon Trust in 2007. The local authority has also signed up to the Nottingham Declaration as part of its commitment to reducing carbon dioxide emissions. The plan will see carbon emissions reduced by four percent a year amounting to a reduction in 6,240 tonnes over five years. A reduction of 60 percent in carbon emissions is hoped to be achieved by 2022. The council will also save an estimated £2.7m over the first five years if the ambitious targets are kept to.
“An example of this policy working is that the lights, computers and other unnecessary equipment, is not longer left on over night. County Hall used to look like a beacon in the night sky- it is now in almost darkness with just a couple of security lights on…”
Said Ray Harrington-Vail of the Footprint Trust.
Another policy, which has won popular support, is the Council’s subsidy of local bus services. The council has topped up the grant the local bus company gets from central government. This means that elderly and disabled people can travel at times fro free – not just at off-peak times. Young people under 19 can travel for a flat single fare of £1. Bus use has increased dramatically – by around 45%. The Council has also been helped by a forward thinking bus company, Go Ahead, who are investing in comfortable buses and increasing services on popular routes. There has however, been some criticism of increased bus fares and cuts in services in some rural areas.
“It is recognised that the Isle of Wight has one of the best rural bus services in the England…”
“When the Trust first heard of the EcoIsland vision it was via an article in the Guardian newspaper (2 November 2007). The whole Island seemed to be by buzzing with the story. People were ringing up the Council and ourselves to find out more….”
“…cynics were very quick to rubbish the idea as “green-wash” fearing it was just the same old Council policies dressed up in new green clothing..”
“However, real policies that will move the Island towards a sustainable future are being developed and implemented..”
One example of an example of where the Council is putting its money where its mouth is – is tacking fuel poverty. A £500,000 investment by the Isle of Wight Council will create a Warm One Island project. Partners in the voluntary sector, including the Footprint Trust, will deliver this.
The project hopes to deliver three outcomes;
Health: Warmer homes will reduce the number of people who die from the effects of cold in the winter and suffer from cold-related illness, particularly respiratory and cardiovascular disease. This particularly affects vulnerable members of the community.
Environment: More efficient heating and insulation will reduce carbon emissions
Reduce inequalities: By reducing the amount of household energy used for heating and hot water, the threat of fuel poverty can be prevented.
“In practical terms this scheme will provide ‘top-ups’ for the government’s Warm Front grant, which is often not enough to insolate and provide a modern heating system for fuel-poor households..” Explained Ray of the Trust.
“We highlighted this issue at the Council’s Environment Forum and are pleased it has been taken on board…”
“The Council’s Environment Forum, which is made up of a mix of representatives from conservation, heritage, environmental, businesses and statutory organisations, was very much a poor cousin when contrasted to the Council’s other advisory groups.”
“The former CEO made a point of talking with the group, which is now making suggestions for policies and having some impact on Council thinking.”
When it comes to reducing waste and recycling the Isle of Wight looks set to be the top in the UK. This is thanks to an £8 million investment in a state of the art gasification plant – paid for by private investment and a Defra grant. This facility will convert combustibles into gas, which in turn are burnt to produce electricity. It will come on stream in August 2008 and provide power for around 2,000 homes. Metals will be harvested out of the wastesteam and sent for recycling. This will compliment Island Waste’s kerbside and other recycling initiatives, which already send some 35% of waste to be recycled. In total over 60% of domestic waste will be diverted from landfill. However, the majority of island households do not recycle and that is something that the Council is seeking to redress by working with Island Waste and the Footprint Trust and the wider community.
Probably the biggest challenge ahead for the Council is the one of future energy needs of the Island. At the moment only a tiny fraction of electricity is produced on the Isle of Wight. High fuel costs are hitting Islanders hard this is due to lower than average salaries, high unemployment and a large elderly population. The island is one of the most expensive places in England to buy petrol and diesel.
This is against a backdrop of opposition to a small windfarm in 2006. The Council voted against the proposal, which led to strong condemnation from the Footprint Trust. Their rejection coincided with the publication of the Stern review, which was issued on the day that the IW Council rejected wind power.
“The Council’s Renewable Energy Strategy (May 2006) set a target of 10% of the IW electricity to be produced from renewables by 2010. The exclusion of wind in the amended options makes the targets unachievable and is clearly born out of a misunderstanding of the contribution that can be realistically made from the alternatives to wind power. The Footprint Trust feels that emotional argument has won over science.”
“Most of the ongoing debate has focused on local aesthetics rather than global issues which are set to engulf us all.’ said Ray Harrington-Vail of the Trust.
“Alarmist and inaccurate claims of mass death of birds and unfounded claims about damage to tourism are just two examples of the over-the-top claims made by opponents. The average wind turbine in England kills one bird a year and Cornwall, which has many turbines, has seen tourism increase.”
“However, the Council’s recent commitment to supporting the installation of 20MW of on-shore wind power on the Island is a major step forward and an example of the Council waking up to the real dangers of Climate Change and dependency on imported fuels”
“The Isle of Wight is almost completely dependent on imported fuel from further-a-field. Even with the new gasification plant, we will only make a small contribution to the National Grid.”
A new proposal (July 2008) for three wind turbines next to a working quarry at Cheverton Down could provide electricity for around 4,500 homes. The Footprint Trust will be backing the application.
In a recent statement the Trust said…
“The biggest threat to the Isle of Wight is not a few wind turbines but climate change – which could see parts the Island’s unique landscape being lost to rising sea levels within the next 75 years.”
“These graceful wind turbines are a welcome sight in the ever-changing landscape of the countryside. They offer a vision of the future – one in which we harness natures energy. They are an opportunity for investment, diversity and enterprise for rural landowners, whilst only taking up a small amount of land.”
“The Footprint Trust believes that the IW Council has made an excellent start. But the EcoIsland Vision will only work if Islanders back it and are committed to changing their own lifestyles and work practices. We all have to work together if we are to have a sustainable future….we owe it to all our children…”