[Article updated October 2021]

More than seventy Cumbrian organisations are working together to drive down the county’s carbon emissions, co-chaired by Karen Mitchell from CAfS. Here’s our at-a-glance guide to the Zero Carbon Cumbria Partnership, and what it aims to do.

What’s the partnership for?

The Zero Carbon Cumbria Partnership includes a wide range of organisations with a key role to play in decarbonising the county at the pace and scale required by climate science, and ensuring that Cumbria benefits from the opportunities this brings.

The purpose of the group is to plan and oversee a radical programme of action that will enable Cumbria to become a carbon neutral county and to mitigate the likely impact of existing climate change.

Who’s on the partnership?

The member organisations include the county’s local authorities, businesses, local sustainability groups, schools, the NFU, NHS, police, Cumbria Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), national parks, Natural England, the Environment Agency, Electricity North West and United Utilities and many more.

Who runs it?

Karen Mitchell from CAfS co-chairs the group with Angela Jones, executive director for economy and infrastructure at Cumbria County Council. Tim Gale is the ZCCP manager, based at Cumbria County Council. The group reports to Cumbria Leaders’ Board, Cumbria Chief Executives’ Group, Cumbria Local Authority Officers’ Group and Cumbria Sustainability Network.

What’s the partnership doing?

The group’s in its early stages, but has already made some big strides forward, laying the groundwork for moving towards a zero-carbon county. We need to understand what the county’s carbon footprint is currently, and the sources of our emissions, so that we can prioritise action. The partnership commissioned a baseline carbon audit for the county from carbon footprinting expert Mike Berners-Lee of Small World Consulting, and this has now been published.

See Cumbria’s baseline carbon audit >

Next steps

  • Define a clear definition for carbon neutral for Cumbria
  • Propose a target date for reaching this target
  • Identify leadership for developing action to tackle key sources of emissions. The partnership is currently developing sector leads and working groups.
  • Establish a programme of action by key partners
  • Lead joint campaigning to encourage wider public awareness and action

A huge stride forward

The Zero Carbon Partnership marks a sea change in the scale of focus on decarbonisation in Cumbria. We’re hugely excited by it at CAfS – after all, a zero carbon Cumbria is our vision.

We’re extremely optimistic that the partnership will be successful in its aims. Here’s why:

  • It is diverse, community led, genuinely cross sector – from the largest organisations to small, very local sustainability groups, embedded in their communities.
  • It does not stand alone, shouting at people about a single issue from the outside – it is embedded in existing structures and focuses on co-benefits.
  • Partners are fully committed – they are sending senior staff and budget holders and committing staff time and resources.
  • Our ambition is high but based on evidence.
  • We have attracted significant funding for a programme of work.

Getting such a range of partners together to do this, and to jointly fund the baseline report, has been a huge achievement itself. It speaks volumes about how much of a priority climate change has become.

As a partnership, we have acknowledged that, in the context of climate crisis it is a mistake to think that if everyone does a little we can achieve a lot. If everyone does a little, we will collectively achieve only a little.

The days are gone where we can congratulate ourselves for taking a step in the right direction – if that is where we stop. We have to act at the pace and scale required by science.

And that is what the Zero Carbon Cumbria Partnership aims to do.