Current Environment Plan

Our Environment Plan and Our Top 20 Commitments for 2023/24

We have set a long-term vision for a Cleaner, Greener East Cambridgeshire. This includes reversing the decline in nature, delivering net zero carbon emissions for the Council’s operations and helping others reduce their emissions.  

We need everyone to do their bit for the environment. For young people, we have dedicated Youth Climate Action pages with ideas and suggestions.

To help us make meaningful progress towards our long term vision, each June we published an Environment Plan. The Environment Plan establishes a new set of Top 20 Actions we commit to undertaking over the coming 12 months, as well as reporting on what we achieved in the previous year. 

On 19th June 2023, the Council agreed its latest Environment Plan for 2023, including a new set of Top 20 Actions for 2023/24.  At the bottom of this page can be found previous copies of our Environment Plans from June 2020.

Top 20 Actions for 2023/24

The Top 20 Actions for 2023/24, as set out in the Environment Plan 2023, are broken down into four themes as follows:

ActionTheme 1: Taking Direct Action to reduce the Council’s Greenhouse Gas EmissionsWhy are we doing this action?
1Via an investment of over £2m in new vehicles, commence by the first half of 2024 the use of Hydrotreated Vegetable Oil (HVO) fuel in our refuse collection vehicles (RCVs), aiming to reduce the carbon emissions of such vehicles by up to 90%.Our RCVs currently contribute around 80% of the Council’s entire CO2e emissions. Targeting those vehicles has the potential to significantly reduce our carbon footprint.
2Progress up to £100,000 further investment in photovoltaic (PV) solar panels on our own estate.Our medium-term aim is to generate at least as much renewable electricity energy as we consume. This investment also makes financial sense, as it will significantly reduce our electricity bills.

The Council will make further reductions in its paper use, so that, by 2030/31, we will use 70% less paper per year than we did, on average, during the period 2017-2019 (when we used an average 1.07million sheets a year). Specifically, we will reduce our paper use by 10% every year compared with 2022/23 paper use, meaning our targets are:

  • 2023/24 = 630,000 sheets of paper used (max)
  • 10% reduction each year thereafter
  • By 2030/31 = 335,000 sheets of paper used (max)

Reducing paper use has widespread environmental benefits, including:

  • Less trees consumed
  • Less water used during manufacturing
  • Lower carbon emissions arising
  • Less waste to deal with
  • Lower costs, overall
However, there could be some additional costs (financial and environmental), if new technologies are needed in order to move away from paper, so we will need to be careful that reducing paper use does not result in alternative forms of environmental disbenefits.
4The Council will finalise its staff Travel Plan, and implement at least five actions from it by June 2024.We want our staff to lead by example when it comes to travelling to work, and travelling for work purposes. This Travel Plan should help cut our transport emissions.


ActionTheme 2: Taking Direct Action to Support Nature Recovery in East CambridgeshireWhy are we doing this action?
5Spend up to £40,000 tackling one or more disused public areas, and turning them into nature rich community areas. One such area, off Heaton Drive, Ely, will be achieved in collaboration with Palace Green Homes.We are keen to demonstrate, in one or two locations, how land can be transformed from underused, low nature value, to one which is of benefit to both people and nature.
6Launch in summer 2023 a new long term ‘one plus one’ campaign, seeking to achieve the installation of one bird or bat box for every household in the district.Like action 10 (green fair), we are looking to launch ideas that will help trigger action, imagination and fun! Just think what nearly 40,000 new bird or bat boxes could do to help turn around the recent rapid decline in bird and bat numbers.
7Via the ‘Green Fair’ in August 2023 (see action 10), put to the public vote the launch of a single species recovery programme for East Cambridgeshire, with the long term aim of East Cambridgeshire being recognised as the national hub helping the recovery of that species - East Cambridgeshire: Home of [You Choose the Species!] Recovery. By June 2024, we will have invested at least £5,000 to kick start on-the-ground improvements for the species you vote for.Whilst protecting all habitats and species is vitally important, sometimes we can achieve more by collectively getting together to support one particular species. Will it be barn owls, or otters? Or perhaps hedgehogs or bees? It’s your choice – come and vote on 5th August 2023!
8To mark the Coronation of King Charles III, as well as his 75th birthday in November 2023, we will plant 75 oak trees, via gifting the trees to parish councils, community groups and schools. For schools, we will also provide a selection of tree related literature to help children appreciate and understand the value of trees. Separately, we will update our Trees and Woodland Strategy, so that we maximise tree planting and tree protection through both the planning system and on our own land; and at the same time, emphasise the need for the right tree to be panted in the right place.Renowned in history and legend, oak trees symbolise royalty, patriotism and strength. The Coronation Chair is made of oak, and is now over 700 years old. But perhaps an oak tree’s greatest feat is nurturing wildlife. They are a haven for a colossal 2,300 wildlife species, providing vital spaces to eat, shelter and breed. In addition, they can capture up to 20kg of carbon dioxide a year from the atmosphere.


ActionTheme 3: Supporting Others to Take ActionWhy are we doing this action?
9The Council will implement its £100,000 ‘Pride of Place’ grant scheme, aiming to 100% grant support dozens of open space improvements and nature led projects in our communities.We know there are lots of very committed people wanting to help improve the local environment in the community, but often lack the funds to make it happen. This fund aims to plug that gap, to bring project ideas into reality.
10Working alongside Ely Cathedral’s ‘Green Fair’ on 5 August 2023, set up a family friendly activity and education day on Palace Green, with a focus on nature related hands on activities, engagement events and children’s activities.Helping people understand what they can do to help the local natural environment is a crucial part of the jigsaw. And targeting young people in a fun and engaging way might help trigger a lifetime of conservation interest and action.
11The Council will identify candidate sites for installing free water bottle filling stations, with a target of installing a minimum of three such stations during 2023/24. Candidates sites will be investigated based on ease of installation and high public footfall (such as Ely Market and Riverside area – we’d welcome other suggested locations by emailing us at free water to fill your water bottle has widespread benefits, including less plastic use/waste, financial saving for residents (compared with shop bought drinks) and health benefits. Such stations can also help us to adapt to our changing climate, with hot weather meaning a greater need to drink water to keep ourselves hydrated.
12The Council will undertake a programme of Electric Vehicle Charging (EVC) initiatives, including:
  • improved information on our website about EVC
  • assisting parish councils and residents to find grants to help instal EVC points
  • bid for grants to instal more EVCs in our own public carparks
Electric vehicle ownership is on the up, and charge points are becoming more available. We need to further increase supply of electric vehicles and charge points to meet growing demand for this lower carbon form of transport.
13We will aim to spend up to £2m investing in energy efficiency measures for non-gas homes in East Cambridgeshire, as part of a wider £10m Cambridgeshire Energy Retrofit Partnership (CERP) scheme of which we are a member. We will also provide wider support to help other residents, including those on-gas, to access grants for energy efficiency installations, partly through our new website Action on Energy CambsCERP have provisionally been awarded an additional £10M of funding for HUG2 (which is likely to equate to approximately £2M for East Cambridgeshire). Using our new contractors, we will seek to help wider residents to access other schemes such as ECO4 and ECO4 flex, which can help occupiers of gas heated properties with access to grants.
14East Cambs Street Scene (ECSS), the Council’s wholly owned company that collects your domestic waste, will target a reduction of over 100 tonnes of black bag waste collected over the year to March 2024. To achieve this, ECSS will further promote ways for residents to reduce waste, recycle more and compost more food and green waste where possible.With your (the public) tremendous efforts, we already have an excellent track record for high domestic recycling rates and low black bin waste volume collected. But we want to do even better! Reducing waste and recycling more is not only beneficial to the environment in itself, but it also reduces the amount of fuel we need to use to collect your black bins, saving even more emissions. Every single resident in East Cambs can help us hit this 100 tonnes reduction target – every bit of extra recycling really does help! Thank you!


ActionTheme 4: Policies, Decision Taking, Accreditation and RecognitionWhy are we doing this action?
15Undertake an environment training programme for all Councillors and staff (‘carbon literacy’ training), so the whole organisation understands the scale of the climate and biodiversity crisis, what the options are to tackle the crisis and what each individual can do in their role to help address the emergency. By June 2024, target Carbon Literate Silver accreditation, which means at least 50% of employees and councillors have undertaken the training by that stage.All our staff, from accountants to youth workers, should be ‘in it together’ as we try to do our bit to help the climate and biodiversity emergency. To help staff learn how they can help, we all need to have a basic understanding of the issues and opportunities involved.
16The Council will aim to achieve, as an organisation, Investors in the Environment (iiE) accreditation Silver award in 2023, and work towards achieving Green award in 2024.The IIE programme is an excellent way for the Council to be ‘challenged’ by independent external experts, to see what we could do more of to protect the environment. Achieving the different levels of accreditation is a great way to celebrate with staff all the good things we are doing.
17In acknowledgement that climate change is happening, and will continue to accelerate, the Council will establish a climate adaptation and climate risk plan, identifying the greatest risks to the Council and its services, and how it can start to help our communities adapt to a changing climate and biodiversity loss. To complement this, we will also commence preliminary work and consultation on a new ‘climate’ chapter for the Local Plan, which will look at how new buildings can be both more energy efficient and have the ability to adapt to a changing (warming) climate.Climate change is already happening, and we need to understand what it will mean for us and be prepared for it. Our communities will expect us to be ready to help manage the inevitable changes that will occur due to climate change. One tool to help both reduce emissions, as well as adapt to a changing climate, is to make sure new homes are fit for a zero carbon future. We can help make this happen via the Local Plan.

How do you imagine a future ‘cleaner, greener East Cambs?’. By June 2024, we will facilitate an engagement programme with residents, businesses and the wider community, and come up with a collectively generated set of targets for East Cambridgeshire as a whole. For example, we want your help to establish targets such as:

  • net zero emissions for the district as a whole
  • increased recycling rates
  • and/or electric vehicle uptake
As a district, we emit an astonishing 1.25 trillion grams of CO2 a year into the atmosphere. We all need to do our bit to help radically reduce this figure. And as your local authority, we are willing to help facilitate the establishment of district wide targets, targets suggested by you, for you, to help reduce our collective emissions and help reverse the decline in nature.
19To proactively fulfil our duty to conserve and enhance biodiversity, we will:
  1. by 1 January 2024, publish an ‘ECDC Biodiversity Action Plan’ which will contain policies and specific action that we will take to conserve and enhance biodiversity
  2. support all parish council with their duty to publish a similar such action plan for their parish
  3. play an active role in the preparation of the first ever county-wide Local Nature Recovery Strategy (LNRS). To help deliver and communicate all these actions, we will establish and dedicate a special section on our website to biodiversity.
The Environment Act 2021 introduced new duties on public authorities, such as ECDC and parish councils, to proactively conserve and enhance biodiversity. It also established mandatory county level LNRSs, which we will have an important role so its proposals reflect our East Cambridgeshire nature recovery priorities.
20Work with Natural Cambridgeshire Local Nature Partnership (LNP), with a special focus over 2023/24 on supporting community-led preparation of local nature recovery plans, and continue to support, via PECT, up to ten East Cambridgeshire schools gain eco-charter status. Continue a financial contribution to the running costs of both programmes. We know we are not the experts on nature, but we will happily support and engage with those that are. We should be proud of what our local LNP achieves, and they are well worthy of our support. We are also delighted to support PECT, so that as many schools as possible in East Cambridgeshire can seek eco-charter status – and hopefully get accredited! Good luck to all the schools and students involved!

Previous Environment Plans

Copies of our previous Environment Plans, each of which contain a set of Top 20 Actions as well reporting on the Council's climate emissions, our targets to become a carbon net zero Council and our long term vision to boost the natural environment can be found below: