Harlow Council has agreed a target date and actions for hitting net zero carbon emissions for the first time, as the Essex authority steps up its efforts to tackle global climate change. 

The target to hit net zero by 2050 was agreed at the authority’s Cabinet meeting on 9 September. 

The council’s target is 10 years before the UK Government’s commitment of reaching a position of net zero carbon emissions by 2040 

Net zero refers to the balance between the amount of greenhouse gas produced and the amount removed from the atmosphere. 

A new Carbon Reduction Plan has also been agreed, which sets a new short-term target for the council to reduce its carbon emissions by 2026 by 50 per cent, when compared to the 2014/15 level. 

The plan will deliver further carbon savings from the council’s operations in the period 2021-26, with the plan also beginning the critical work required to prepare to meet net zero by 2040. 

At the meeting, Harlow Council’s Portfolio Holder for Environment, Councillor Alastair Gunn, set out the actions that the authority will take to deliver net zero, including: The authority will only buy electric cars from 2022/23.No new gas boilers in council operational buildings from 2025/26. HTS (property and environment) to commit to net zero by 2040. Next waste contract to include commitment to reach net zero by the end of it. 

Ms Gunn added: “Tackling climate change is this century’s single most pressing challenge. How that challenge is met will define the world in which we all live and will impact the lives of people for generations to come. 

“This matters to Harlow and addressing the Council’s own carbon emissions is critical to safeguarding the local environment, and ensuring Harlow is a town fit for the future. While there has been good progress in the last ten years by the council to reduce its carbon emissions, there is still a significant amount of work left, with the most complex and costly decisions yet to be taken. 

“The council’s decision to set a target for Net Zero for the first time ever is an important statement to the town and to businesses and organisations. Harlow Council is serious about tackling climate change and we all need to and can do our bit for Harlow’s future. Getting this right is critical to making Harlow an even greater engine for opportunity and prosperity in the East of England.”