Proposed Submission Local Plan 2006-2028

Addressing Climate Change in South Somerset

12.2 The release of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere from human activity is changing the world's climate, and national Government policy clearly supports taking action to tackle this issue. This 'action' involves mitigation through reducing greenhouse gas emissions; and adaptation by ensuring development can cope with the predicted impacts of climate change and helping biodiversity to adapt to a changing climate. Taking action to address climate change will be much less costly than not taking action over the medium to long term.[1]

12.3 Carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are 7.2 tonnes per person in South Somerset, compared to the neighbouring Districts of Taunton Deane (5.8 tonnes), Sedgemoor (6.8 tonnes) and Mendip (7.7 tonnes), and slightly less than the county average of 8.3 tonnes per person. Industrial and commercial sources produce the highest amount of CO2 emissions per person (2.7 tonnes) in South Somerset, followed by domestic sources (2.4 tonnes) and road transport (2.1 tonnes) with similar proportions.[2]

Figure 10: Source of CO2 emissions in South Somerset
Figure 10: Source of CO2 emissions in South Somerset

12.4 The Climate Change Act 2008 requires an 80% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 (upon 1990 levels) - a key element of the Local Plan is to ensure South Somerset makes a full and appropriate response to climate change. South Somerset's Sustainable Community Strategy sets out more ambitious targets though a 'year on year reduction in the District's carbon footprint towards a carbon neutral economy in 2030.' The Council have also adopted (March 2010) a 'Carbon reduction and climate change adaptation strategy', which focuses on mitigation and adaptation measures that can be achieved through the Council's operations, including requiring more sustainable buildings through the spatial planning process.

12.5 The Local Plan Vision and Strategic Objectives support a low carbon economy, and promote greater self containment by focussing most new development at the main settlements in the District, with a balance of employment and housing provision, ensuring communities have good access to shops and community services and facilities. This should ensure the need to travel is minimised, especially by car, and therefore limit the growth of CO2 emissions from travel.

12.6 Even if the world were to go 'zero carbon' straight away, there is likely to be 30-40 years of climate change due to greenhouse gas emissions already released.[3] This makes it vitally important to ensure that new development is adapted to cope with the effects of climate change that will happen regardless of measures taken now to reduce emissions of CO2.

12.7 By the 2050s, climate change in South Somerset is likely to mean more extreme weather events including:[4]

  • Summers being 2-3 degrees centigrade hotter, and 20-40% drier;
  • Winters being 2-3 degrees warmer, and 10-20% wetter.

12.8 Changes to the summer climate may have some positives in South Somerset from increased tourist numbers, which would benefit the local economy. But hotter, drier summers could damage wildlife in the district and reduce levels of water supply. Wetter winters could cause more flooding and greater risk to property and people.

1. Stern Review on the economics of climate change, HM Treasury, 2006 [back]
2. 2009 UK Carbon Dioxide emissions within the scope of influence of Local Authorities [back]
3. Adapting to climate change: UK Climate Projections, Defra, 2009 [back]
4. Central estimate under medium emissions scenario, UK Climate Projections 2009 [back]