Exeter to hold ‘carbon neutral festival’ in climate change battle

A festival is set to be held to discuss how Exeter can become carbon neutral by 2030.

City councillors agreed this week to set aside a £30,000 budget to secure external support for the development and delivery of a programme of activities – leading to a big public event.

Prior to the summit/festival taking place, public engagement will take place to help to shape a plan or ‘roadmap’ that addresses how a carbon-neural future can be achieved.

The ‘carbon-neutral’ series will contain formal and informal events including workshops, talks and debates.

These will enable all sectors of the city, including communities, business and local authority, to jointly explore challenges and build understanding about the changes that will need to be made.

Data and information collected through the workshops and engagement activities will be collated and used to stimulate debate at a high-profile summit event.

Councillor Phil Bialyk, leader of Exeter City Council, said: “Exeter has an opportunity to show leadership among cities through decisive implementation of policies, innovations and investment that shape the way we live, and our environmental impact, for decades to come.

“Delivering these policies will also offer additional benefits including reduced air pollution, congestion and road fatalities, and improved health outcomes, from more active travel and cleaner air.

“I look forward to everyone getting involved and working together to make Exeter carbo -neutral, and at the same time improving quality of life for everyone in the city.

“But this isn’t the end and it is going to be very difficult, but we will lead by example. We have the political will and aspiration to want to influence change in the city.”

The report of Jon-Paul Hedge, council director, to Tuesday’s executive meeting said the commitment to make Exeter a carbon neutral city by 2030 has potential to make a ‘vital contribution to our planet and all its people’.

It added: “Delivering this commitment will require the involvement of everyone across the city – individuals, communities, companies or organisations.

“Inevitably, lifestyle, business and investment choices will need to be made and therefore it is critical to ensure that the widest possible range of stakeholders are involved in the development of the roadmap.

“In delivering the commitment for a carbon neutral Exeter, there will be a positive impact on the health and wellbeing of the residents of Exeter, community safety, the environment and the economy.

“Achieving the target will offer benefits including reduced air pollution, congestion and road fatalities, and improved health outcomes from more active travel and cleaner air.”

Mr Hedge’s report added: “The data and information collected through the workshops and engagement activities will be collated and used to stimulate debate at a high-profile summit event.

“At this public event, it is hoped that invited stakeholders will be asked to present the scale of the carbon-neutral ambition and to review, discuss and agree the resources that will need to be committed for solutions to be found.

“The vision is that this event will attract interest from the general public as well as business and therefore the concept may be more appropriately referred to as a festival rather than a summit so that it feels more open.

“The design of the summit is yet to be agreed and will be part of the activity to be delivered with the requested budget.”

Green Party councillor Diana Moore welcomed the idea as there is a need for full engagement from the community to see the changes that we want to see take place.

Cllr Amal Ghusain also welcomed the ideas but questioned what kind of events would be taking place, as traditional ideas such as talks or lectures won’t appeal to those who are currently not engaging with the climate emergency.

Liz O’Driscoll, director at Exeter City Futures, which has been asked by the council to establish a roadmap for delivery of the carbon-neutral commitment, said that finding innovative ideas was one of the purposes of setting aside the funding.

She added: “It will help for engagement activities to explore the barriers we will have to overcome and the solutions people have.

“People may be engaging intellectually in the emergency but they are not sure they understand what it means for them.”

The executive unanimously recommended to next week’s full council meeting to approve the £30,000 budget for the project to support delivery of a series of events and engagement activities to identify and explore the barriers and challenges, leading up to a summit/festival.

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