Cllr Tim Oliver
Cllr Tim OliverSurrey County Council
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As Surrey County Council signs our Net Zero pledge and becomes UK100's newest member, Leader of Surrey County Council Cllr Tim Oliver outlines how he sees the council's role in the climate emergency and the action it is already taking.

‘The scale of our ambitions must reflect the scale of the challenge’ is the quote that I gave for the Surrey Climate Change Strategy. This is vital to our approach as we tackle the climate crisis and means we must act with urgency, ambition, and leadership. All of us must take action to do our part, now and into the future.

Surrey County Council has come a long way in our journey to Net Zero since our Climate Change Strategy was published last year. We have committed £48m to ensure that within 10 years all buses in Surrey are ultra-low or zero emission vehicles and we are investing over £6m in active travel measures. 

With our district partners across Surrey, we have been successful in obtaining £14m of government funding to help low income households to improve the energy efficiency of their home, saving carbon and reducing fuel bills. We have developed our draft Surrey Transport Plan, which is currently under consultation, aiming to support people out of private fossil-fuel powered cars. We have also begun converting our 89,000 streetlights into LEDs, which is predicted to use 65% less energy and save £2m every year. 

However, we - and all local authorities - cannot achieve Net Zero alone. Instead, we see our role in the climate emergency as to:

  • Lead by example in our estates and services – achieving Net Zero by 2030.
  • Enable by linking together projects and facilitating finance to achieve scale up across Surrey.
  • Influence behaviour change with residents, communities and businesses.
  • Underpinning all we do, collaborate with partners. 

As part of UK100, we’re keen to work with the network to lobby central government to achieve the national policy changes and legislation we need to achieve our Net Zero carbon targets. It’s also critical to work alongside the business community in Surrey and other key partners to ensure we can secure the investment required. Our district and borough councils are vital partners in reaching Net Zero and we are working with them to ensure that we have an agreed approach to delivering the climate change strategy. 

Supporting our communities to make changes will be one of the biggest challenges of reaching Net Zero. We have recently delivered ‘Surrey Solar Together’ - a group-buy scheme to help those with a suitable property and the means to purchase solar panels to acquire them at a better price. This was highly successful but there are a myriad of other issues to consider when asking residents to take sustainable steps.  

Transport is one of those tricky areas, where we need central government to make strong policy to support our communities to move away from fossil-fuel powered private cars. In Surrey, transport makes up 46% of carbon emissions. In our draft Surrey Transport Plan, we are proposing to support people in Surrey to reduce journeys and shift travel to more sustainable modes, while encouraging technology advancements which further reduce carbon emissions and energy efficiency of vehicles and roads.

Empowering communities is central to our Vision for Surrey and the council’s organisational strategy, especially when tackling climate change. That’s why we launched ‘Your Fund Surrey’ to give £100m to communities over the next five years to spend on projects that they care about. We need to bring everyone along with us on this journey to Net Zero. 

We can also not forget that we are already seeing the impacts of climate change, which the recent weather events are a strong reminder. Surrey County Council’s £270m investment in flood alleviation, including the River Thames Scheme, is just one step towards making the county more resilient to climate change impacts.

How we respond to this challenge will define our generation. Let’s work with our partners and communities to lead the way to Net Zero and safe, resilient communities.