29 October 2021 – Message from Councillor Ian Courts, Leader of Solihull Council


Climate Change special (almost)

COP26 begins on Sunday in Glasgow until 12 November where the world will convene to discuss plans to cut emissions by 2030.   

This is the 26th ‘Conference of the Parties’, hence COP26, and 200 countries are expected to attend with up to 25,000 people including a number of world leaders, negotiators and journalists.

COP21 took place in Paris in 2015 where everyone agreed to make changes to keep global warming "well below" 2C above pre-industrial levels - and to try and aim for 1.5C - so that we avoid a climate catastrophe.  That was the Paris Agreement, and it means countries have to keep making bigger emissions cuts until reaching net zero in 2050.

At the end of COP26 some form of declaration is expected.  Every country will be required to sign up and it could include specific commitments that could lead to major changes to our everyday lives in order to keep global warming to 1.5C. 

With COP26 just around the corner I wanted to find out what was already happening around the borough to help tackle climate change.  I invited a series of guests to come and join me in a podcast to discuss what they are doing in the fight against climate change and what we can all learn from them.

Hosted by BBC Midlands Today’s David Gregory-Kumar, I was surprised at how well all my guests have embraced the fight against climate change and were already making a difference.  The series of podcasts will cover a range of innovative eco-initiatives from both business and the public sector.  The podcast series is called ‘Courts on Climate Change’, and are available from the Council website, Spotify or Apple Podcasts.

The first in the series focuses on the work we’re doing with local schools around climate change and sustainability and how Touchwood are supporting the Greener Solihull Schools Award. Later episodes touch on energy, net zero and future transport. Do look out for them as I’ve learned so much from these discussions and I hope you will too.

When we passed a motion in October 2019 to recognise the gravity of the Climate Change emergency, we pledged to become a ‘net zero carbon Council by 2030.’  We recognised this was a challenge and set out to reduce energy consumption and switch to renewable energy sources.

A report going to Cllr Mackiewicz’s decision session on Monday shows the progress we have made. Our CO2 emissions have reduced by about 70% since 2009. We’ve managed this by initiatives such as introducing LED Street Lighting and switching to a renewable source of electricity.  This particular service area is now zero carbon.

Managing our buildings better has helped make reductions, through a mix of energy efficiency works and reducing the number of buildings we use.  Also the new environmental services contract requires Veolia to support our carbon targets and as part of the mobilisation we will work with them to develop a 2030 action plan.

At the next Cabinet meeting we will be discussing the Net Zero Action Plan for the borough, as we continue to develop our approach to tackling the climate change challenge here in Solihull.  

In other news, every two years, councils are required to carry out a survey of adult carers with a random sample of registered carers.  The survey asks about their quality of life, the impact of services on their quality of life, and their general health and well-being. 

We know that the pandemic has created additional challenges and pressures for carers so I would encourage everyone who has recently received the survey from us to share their views and help shape future services.  Read more about the survey and support for carers here. 

Finally, I wanted to mention we recently celebrated 16 Green Flag Awards for our parks and open spaces.  Winning these Green Flag Awards – the international quality mark for parks and green spaces - recognises the hard work and passion of both staff and an army of volunteers across the borough.

This is even more welcome as over the past 18 months our parks and green spaces have played a vital role to everyone through the lockdowns as places to relax, exercise and meet friends and family safely.

COVID is still here, please:

  • Get vaccinated; both COVID and flu.
  • Mask up in crowded spaces, on public transport and in poorly ventilated spaces.
  • Use hybrid working wherever possible.
  • Remember hands, face, space works for COVID, flu and other winter viruses.

Councillor Ian Courts, Leader of Solihull Council