2. Background

It is widely acknowledged that the Earth’s climate is changing and that these changes will likely impact all of the planet’s inhabitants.  It is a significant issue and the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which was set up in 1988, continues to assess the scientific evidence and provide information to Governments to enable them to develop policy and some might say, avoid an environmental catastrophe.

In its most recent report, published in March 2023, the IPCC suggests that as of 2020, human activity – largely the emission of greenhouse gases (GHG) – led to a global surface temperature rise of 1.1°C above pre-industrial levels. This is edging nearer to the 1.5°C limit suggested by the Panel in 2018 and is mainly due to the use of unsustainable energy sources, land-use change and patterns of consumption. 

The increase in temperature has already resulted in widespread changes in the Earth’s atmosphere, weather systems and oceans. The last decade has been warmer than any period for around 125,000 years and concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere are at their highest for at least two million years. 

Also, sea levels are rising faster than in any previous century for 3,000 years, oceans are warming faster than any time since the last ice age and ocean acidification is at its highest for 26,000 years. 

The IPCC report stresses the need to take ambitious action and suggests that, if nations act now, they can still secure a liveable, sustainable future for all.
In 2019, the UK Government set a target of achieving Net Zero emissions of greenhouse gasses by 2050.  Net Zero means reducing emissions close to zero and using greenhouse gas removal or ‘offsets’ (buying carbon credits) to account for any remaining emissions that are extremely difficult to eliminate. For most sectors net-zero requires reducing emissions close to zero without offsetting. 

In recent years, CDDFRS have responded to numerous incidents that can be attributed to the extreme weather events associated with climate change most notably flooding and a spate of heathland and moorland fires in the summer of 2022.

Firefighters are only too familiar with toxic atmospheres; they train and are equipped to deal with high temperatures and the products of combustion.  This makes them well placed to help the communities of County Durham and Darlington prepare for and address climate change.

This Strategy aims to tap into the experience and expertise of the Service’s Emergency Response, Estates, Transport and Procurement Departments to help the organisation reduce its greenhouse gas emissions and make other changes that aim to provide a better and more sustainable Environment for everyone.