Sustainable development - general: Outline
Improving the environmental performance of the Council and Borough has also been a priority.
We and our partners are promoting education and raising environmental awareness, as well as encouraging recycling, energy efficiency, biodiversity, transportation choice, countryside access, water quality, and improvements to the urban and rural environment. These projects form the practical element towards our environmental responsibility.
This is not just a Council process: local groups, businesses and organisations from the public, private, voluntary and community sectors have been active partners. The local community has also been involved in establishing our priorities for action through consultation forums such as the townships, tenants and residents associations and youth forums.
Although much has been done, we are working to strengthen the Borough's sustainability process. Key to this will be:
- Incorporating sustainability into future policies, strategies and service delivery
- Developing a Borough-wide Environmental Action Plan to ensure that action towards our environmental responsibility takes place in a co-ordinated way
- Monitoring and assessing progress towards sustainability through the development of a set of 'sustainability indicators'
Why is sustainable development important?
- Global temperatures are rising faster than ever before recorded, bringing chaos to weather systems across the world.
- If we carry on burning fossil fuels at present rates, greenhouse gases in the atmosphere will increase by 50 per cent within 15 years - risking catastrophic climate shifts.
- More and more of the world's population are now facing acute shortages of fresh water, slumps in food production, devastating floods for some and disastrous droughts for others.
- 81 per cent of our rubbish ends up in landfill, which means we are literally using up and throwing away the earth's natural resources. Many of these resources are renewed by nature over time but if we continue to use them up faster than they are replenished, eventually there'll be none left.
- There are 2,300 landfill sites in the UK. Existing landfills are predicted to be full within five to ten years
- Transport is responsible for 25 per cent of the UK's greenhouse gas emissions; small particles emitted by vehicles using petrol or diesel are linked to asthma, and; nitrogen oxides cause respiratory diseases and can produce smog at ground level.
- Domestic water demand grew 51 per cent between 1970 and 2001 - a trend set to continue. As we demand more water, the water companies are having to extract more from existing underground reservoirs which are not being refilled by rainfall and from rivers that are already running low. Low river levels increase the concentration of pollutants in the water, meaning that there is less oxygen for the plant and animal life.
It is important to understand that all human activity relies heavily on the environment. It is up to us to use it wisely. We cannot sustain progress if we do so at the expense of the environment.