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Dorset Council has brought together its new Climate Change Executive Advisory Panel for the first time.

The panel was established following the declaration of a climate change emergency at Dorset Council back in May. It will work in partnership with organisations across Dorset to develop its climate emergency plan for Dorset.

With a cross-party membership of elected members and senior officers, the panel came together on Tuesday 2 July to begin discussions on how the council can set carbon reduction targets and how it will consider and develop proposals for policy and action that addresses climate change in Dorset.

Panel chairman Councillor Ray Bryan outlined his vision for how the panel should work, emphasising that politics should be kept out of the discussions, that recommendations would be made based on fact-based evidence and that a frank, honest and transparent approach will always be emphasised.

There was broad support across the panel for direct involvement from the public, with invites to be extended to various groups to talk directly to councillors about the issues at hand. It was proposed that representatives from Extinction Rebellion would be invited to the next meeting to present to members about what Dorset Council could be doing to help reduce and mitigate climate change.

Recommendations from the panel will be passed to Dorset Council’s Cabinet for consideration. One of the first ideas to be investigated will be the possible introduction of new carbon-based checks and testing for council proposals. This will allow Dorset residents and councillors to see the environmental impact of the council’s future decisions and look at how the amount of carbon produced can be reduced or mitigated by other “green” initiatives.

A detailed presentation was made to the panel by Dorset Council’s Community Energy officer, which emphasised the seriousness of climate change and why it is important that the council take swift action to play its part in helping reduce carbon emissions.

Members of the panel also voiced support for contacting local MPs and requesting financial support from central government for future carbon-reduction initiatives in the future.

The Climate Change Executive Advisory Panel will reconvene in September. In the meantime, members will bring together their list of priorities for council services that can be looked at to create a Forward Plan. Terms of reference – what the panel will be responsible for – will also be finalised at the next meeting.

Councillor Ray Bryan, panel chairman and Cabinet Member for Highways, Travel and Environment, said: ‘This coming together of councillors across the political divide to talk about the problem of climate change is a significant step in helping to tackle the issue and demonstrate we are preparing to take action.

‘Dorset Council is already doing some great work in helping reduce our carbon footprint. We are pulling this information together to establish a baseline so that we can see which areas of work we could be developing, and which need to be looked at as a priority.

‘By listening to the concerns of Dorset residents and communities, elected members and council officers can start to make important changes to the way we deliver our services. This will help in the fight against climate change and work toward providing a healthier environment in the future for the people we serve.’

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