Suffolk: Windfarm is not county’s only green success as carbon emissions fall

Cyclists on a sunny day in Southwold. Peter and Dinah Findlay

Cyclists on a sunny day in Southwold. Peter and Dinah Findlay - Credit: Archant

Suffolk has long claimed it is the greenest county - and new figures released today highlight the true success of the region.

In the week the switched to the 140-turbine Greater Gabbard Array was flicked connecting it to the National Grid it can be revealed that since 2006 the amount of carbon dioxide produced by the county has fallen by about 15%.

The figures are all the more impressive because the population of Suffolk continues to rise.

And between 2009 and 2013 the proportion of Suffolk waste recycled has increased from 48% to 53%.

It has been estimated the green economy sector will bring investment topping £50 billion to Suffolk and Norfolk over the next 20 years.


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The carbon footprint of the county varies dramatically. In St Edmundsbury the average carbon footprint (11.4 tonnes per person) in 2011 was more than twice that in Ipswich (4.2 tonnes), Suffolk Coastal (5.7 tonnes), and Waveney (5.6 tonnes).

Were it not for St Edmundsbury – and to some extent neighbouring Forest Heath where the figures may be skewed by the two massive USAF bases – Suffolk’s carbon footprint would be much lower than the national average.

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The England average carbon footprint has fallen from 8.5 tonnes to 6.7 tonnes while Suffolk’s per capita carbon footprint has fallen from 8.3 to 6.9 tonnes.

The Ipswich figure is lowest because fewer people have cars and fewer use them for regular long journeys – and public transport, especially trains, has a much lower carbon footprint.

Carbon footprint figures for large towns and cities are much lower than for more rural areas across the country – Greater London has the lowest carbon footprint per capita of any UK region.

Suffolk Coastal MP Dr Therese Coffey is parliamentary private secretary to Energy Minister Michael Fallon and accompanied him to the Greater Gabbard launch on Wednesday.

She was not surprised that people in her constituency worked hard to reduce their carbon footprint.

“If you have quite a simple, easily understandable way of recycling then that helps. And there is support for non-polluting power generation like at Sizewell,” she said.

“Looking at the area as a whole, people who live near the coast are very well aware of the importance of trying to prevent global warming and doing what they can to prevent the sea level rising too high.

“I know there is only so much that one area can do – but people do want to feel they are doing what they can.”

Suffolk County Council cabinet member for waste Richard Smith said: “Because of the breadth of green economy expertise in Suffolk, tackling the effects of changing climate is good for the county’s economy.

“I am pleased that the Government has recognised Suffolk as a national leader in developing a green economy and everything already achieved has made an important contribution to reducing carbon emissions.

“The reduction in emissions demonstrated by these figures is welcome but we must not be complacent. Carbon–related issues are of global concern and we all have a duty to avoid potential harm to our environment.”

Mid Suffolk farmer David Barker is chairman of the Creating the Greenest County partnership that was set up by the county council.

He was pleased to hear the confirmation that the per capita carbon footprint was falling – but felt there was still much to be done.

He said: “I’m now driving a car that does 70 miles per gallon and only costs £10 a year in car tax. The machinery on my farm is much more efficient than it was in the past, and homes are being made much more energy efficient.”

But he was sure much more could be done.

“I would like to see many more solar panels – I’m not talking about huge solar farms that are controversial, but individual panels that can be put on south-facing buildings.

“They mean the power is generated where it is used – you don’t need huge cables to take it away and it makes a real difference to bills.”

Overall the figures were encouraging – but no one could afford to be complacent.

Mr Barker said: “From the Greenest county point of view it is good to know that carbon emissions per capita are falling but there is still much more to do.”

Iain Dunnett is the operations manager for the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), and before working there was a senior Suffolk County Council manager working on creating the green economy.

He put the value of the green economy to the region into perspective.

“We have been looking at the prospects for this region, Suffolk and Norfolk, and the bew estimate we have is that the green economy will be worth £50 billion to the region over the next 25 years.”

The Greater Gabbard array that formally opened on Wednesday was huge – but there were already proposals to expand it and further up the coast the East Anglia Array will dwarf Greater Gabbard when it is completed.

“There is a tremendous amount more expansion that we can see in this part of the world from the expansion of the green energy sector.

“Siemens are considering assembling turbines in this country – albeit near Hull rather than in this region – but that will still be of great importance to the industry in this region.

“There is no region why places like Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft should not see the same effect that Aberdeen or Texas have got from the oil industry,” he added.

One mystery that the experts still have not found an answer to is why St Edmundsbury borough has such high emissions of carbon dioxide per capita.

Its residents produced twice as much as those living on the east of the county durning 2011 – and Iain Dunnett from the New Anglia LEP said there was not clear reason.

He said: “We had a meeting of a number of experts to try to work out why St Ed’s figure is so much higher than the rest of Suffolk

“We wondered if they’d got another suga beet factors up their sleeve (Bury St Edmunds is home to a huge British Sugar plant) but that is not the case!”

He said the existing sugar plant would not account for the high emissions.

Without St Edmundsbury’s carbon dioxide emissions, Suffolk would be one of the greenest counties in the country already.

However while St Edmundsbury’s carbon emissions were high, on another measure of green credentials the borough is very successful – it recycles more rubbish (52.3%) than any other district in suffolk.

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