Developing a coherent net zero carbon strategy for Cornwall

On 3 September 2019, Buro Happold staged an interactive event as part of our continuing contribution to Zero Carbon Cornwall.

Organised in collaboration with The Eden Project, with support from sponsors Vattenfall, this is the latest in a series of workshops held to develop the county’s energy plans. It is the first time that we have convened to address this challenge since Cornwall Council declared a climate emergency in January of this year.

zero carbon cornwall burohappold event at eden project

Greeting an audience of business leaders, local government and residents assembled at The Eden Project, Duncan Price – Buro Happold’s Director of Sustainability – introduced six speakers to set the scene. These experts included Matthew Russell from Swedish power company Vattenfall, Buro Happold energy engineer Lara Balazs and Dr Rebecca Pearce from activist group Extinction Rebellion.

The public still thinks that we’re just some crazy banner-wavers

Dr Rebecca Pearce, Extinction Rebellion

“Extinction Rebellion hasn’t been around for very long,” says Rebecca. “A lot of the public still thinks that we’re just some crazy banner-wavers, but we are now getting to a point where we realise we are trying to build a movement of movements. I have been really impressed by Cornwall Council. They have told the truth, been open about the problems and come up with a plan.”

The morning concluded with a look at how Cornwall plans to be carbon neutral by 2030, which is 20 years ahead of the government’s target. A presentation by Mark Holmes – the council’s Carbon Neutral Cornwall Manager – was followed by a pragmatic assessment of how things stand by Steven Jermy from the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership.

“One of the things that Extinction Rebellion said is that there’s a need to tell the truth, and I’m pretty strong on that,” says Steven afterwards. “I think we can get to net zero by 2030. Have we got the technical skills to do it? I’m 99 per cent certain we have. The issues are going to be planning, which slows us down, policy and, probably, infrastructure. If we can make progress in those areas then, yes, I do think it’s possible. But it’s not going to be easy. This is the biggest industrial transition that you can imagine.”

I think we can get to net zero by 2030

Steven Jermy, Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership

The afternoon was dedicated to a collaborative strategy game designed to test policies in areas including transport, retrofit and governance. This exercise used role-play to interrogate the realities of effective community engagement, which is absolutely crucial in reducing greenhouse gas emissions on time. “We’ve brought impetus and fresh ideas, our technical thinking, our evidence base and a bucketload of enthusiasm to try something new,” says Duncan Price.  “At the end of the day, this is a climate emergency. We’ve got to do things differently and I very much hope that this approach is something that we can replicate in other regions and cities around the world.”

Watch the Zero Carbon Cornwall workshop summary

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