(Questions may be submitted to be answered by the Scrutiny Committee, or Council officers who are attending the meeting as witnesses, on any item that is within the scope of the Committee. Please see the procedure for the submission of questions at the end of this agenda.)
Question 1 from Lisa Hopkinson:
Does the Committee have any procedures to vet appointed members to ensure that they fully accept the scientific consensus that the climate is warming to dangerous levels and greenhouse gases emitted by human activities are the primary cause, and that the members are committed to acting to reduce emissions in accordance with the scientific consensus? If not, will the Committee consider introducing such procedures to ensure that climate deniers and those shamelessly peddling pseudoscience and misinformation, that will ultimately destroy the planet and contributes to a stalled public discourse, will not be given a voice on the Committee that is tasked with scrutinising climate change action?
The Committee doesn’t appoint its own members, this is done by full council therefore the committee doesn’t and wouldn’t be able to vet its members. The Committee does however, supply background information and training to members to inform them on the topics they are discussing. This is invaluable in terms of enlightening members on the issues being discussed.
Question 2 from Anne Thoday:
As a Derbyshire resident I am interested in how the Council is reducing the environmental impact and carbon emissions created by its own workforce. The recently published Derbyshire County Council Climate Change Strategy and Action Plan 2021 pledges to ‘include climate change training as part of the induction process for all Elected Members and staff to strengthen knowledge of carbon emissions, climate resilience and net zero development.’
Two years ago in October 2019, the Corporate Environmental policy similarly pledged to ‘ensure all staff are able to implement the Corporate Environment Policy Raising awareness, educating and training employees and those working on our behalf to ensure that all staff have the knowledge, skills and understanding to implement the Environment Policy.’ Would the Committee investigate whether two years on this policy has been enacted and that ALL staff are now aware of the Corporate Environmental policy and that there is a suitable framework of training and procedure in place which ensures all staff are supported by the management structure to implement the policy in their work for Derbyshire County Council?
Could the Committee also consider how the impact of this is measured in terms of overall reduction in carbon emissions and environmental impact created by the work of Derbyshire County Council employees?
This is a new committee with the remit of reviewing and scrutinising matters relating to Climate Change, Biodiversity and Carbon Reduction. An important aspect of its overarching role will be to consider the effectiveness of measures to reduce carbon emissions from the Council’s own operations, and the Committee will undertake this role using an evidenced based approach. It is not anticipated that it will be possible to link reductions in carbon emissions to single interventions such as staff training, instead it is thought that a reduction in emissions will be achieved through a combination of measures. Measures will include awareness raising, behaviour change and service redesign.
The Committee recognises the importance of raising awareness of employees, elected members, businesses, and residents. Therefore, your suggestion to track the uptake of training and the awareness of our own employees is considered a good one. It is something that the Committee can readily incorporate into its work programme.
The Council has established a range of awareness raising initiatives and there is an appetite to both expand the offer and increase uptake. Some examples are provided below and there are further proposals under consideration:
· The Council is preparing a Climate Change Strategy and Action Plan, and an outline of these documents is being considered by this Committee on 26th July. An important component of the strategy will be reporting and monitoring emissions.
· The formal induction process for all new members of staff includes familiarisation with the Council’s Corporate Environment Policy
· Available to all staff is a short e-learning unit introducing sustainability and climate change and how it affects an officer’s role at work. This 30-minute course has been developed in-house and therefore can be easily updated to include new initiatives as they are introduced.
· Elected Member induction training now includes a training session offering an introduction to climate change. The course lasts 1.5 hours plus a pre-training exercise.
· An eight-hour Carbon Literacy Training (CLT) course was delivered at County Hall in Matlock in 2019 and it is anticipated that other staff will have access to CLT courses delivered through the Local Authority Energy Partnership (LAEP) when the course is redesigned to enable participation online.
· Approximately every three weeks, a ‘Go Green’ edition of the internal newsletter ‘Our Derbyshire’ is distributed. This provides regular updates about the Council’s work on climate change and sustainability, including training.
· Our climate change team is currently developing a climate change engagement strategy, which will include internal engagement with staff on climate change and wider environmental issues.