Runcorn & Widnes Weekly News

Greenpeace scientist in call over fossil fuel


GREENPEACE UK’s chief scientist has called on the public sector to consider how much it costs to run fossil fuel and electric vehicles as well as emissions after Freedom of Informatio­n (FOI) data revealed how Cheshire residents’ taxes are being used to fund company cars for public sector staff that run on planet-warming fossil fuels.

Dr Doug Parr exclusivel­y told the Weekly News that electric cars not only produce fewer emissions but cost less to run meaning a better deal for taxpayers - with upfront purchase prices expected to fall in line with petrol and diesel cars in “the next three or four years”.

He said any fleet operators still choosing petrol or diesel cars were “out of date”.

Dr Parr’s comments followed the release of exclusive FOI data revealing how some public bodies operating in Halton and

Cheshire fund company cars for some staff including petrol and diesel vehicles despite fossil fuels being a key driver of climate change and extreme weather events in addition to air pollution.

The data and some of the official responses, however, showed a decisive shift towards low emissions company cars with most at NHS Halton Clinical Commission­ing Group (CCG) now opting for electric.

Requests were sent to Halton Borough Council,

NHS Halton CCG, Warrington and Halton Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service (CFRS), Cheshire Constabula­ry, and the North West Ambulance Service, at the end of June.

This was before July brought a series of extreme weather events to the world in addition to the UK heatwave, both with tragic consequenc­es.

All of the organisati­ons responded, with varying degrees of informatio­n provided.

Cheshire fire service gave broad scope to the request, revealing that its “essential users” allowance scheme provides staff who need to be mobile with £1,234 per year towards a lease vehicle, leased via the Crown Commercial Services portal.

A brigade spokesman said that at present, 18 “essential users” have vehicles via the scheme, all of which are diesel - a type of fossil fuel whose emissions include carbon dioxide (CO2) which causes global warming.

He said one full electric vehicle (EV) and one hybrid vehicle are on order as staff move from one lease to another.

The spokesman also revealed that the only vehicle Cheshire fire service fully funds is for the Chief Fire Officer Mark Cashin - another leased diesel - although he stated an ambition for all of the service’s non-blue-lights response vehicles including his own to be electric by 2025.

Although Cheshire fire service doesn’t have a low emission vehicle policy, the shift towards minimising carbon emissions has clearly begun, with a range of initiative­s under way.

The spokesman said: “There is not a policy for low emission vehicles however CFRS currently operates 12 full EV Nissan Leafs, with a further two currently on order replacing diesel Ford Fiestas.

“We also own eight Toyota Yaris hybrids with more to come this year replacing 2008 Vauxhall Corsas.

“Fire station vans are now being considered for full EV with a further seven vehicles due to be replaced for EV from diesel.”

A statement from Chief Fire Officer Mark Cashin said the service has launched a drive including “significan­t investment” to drive down its carbon emissions, as he revealed a goal of replacing all non-bluelight response vehicles with electric vehicles by 2025, and the installati­on of solar panels at seven sites.

He added he hoped the service can become a “leading example”.

CFO Cashin said: “Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service is committed to doing all it can to reduce its C02 emissions and we have set ourselves the ambitious target of reducing our emissions to net zero by 2050.

“Through innovation, empowermen­t and education of staff and implementa­tion of environmen­tal and sustainabi­lity best practice, it is our vision that Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service becomes one of the country’s leading fire and rescue services for reducing carbon emissions.

“Since 2009 we have reduced our emissions by more than 40 per cent, which we have achieved through a number of significan­t investment­s and developmen­ts including the introducti­on of Biomass heating at our Sadler Road site, a new fleet of electric vehicles and the installati­on of solar power at seven sites across the county.

“More recently, we have also started a significan­t refurbishm­ent programme to help make all of our sites more environmen­tally efficient.

“In addition to this, we have also opened the new fire station in Chester, which is one of the first carbon neutral stations in the UK, and something that we are looking to replicate with the proposed new fire station in Crewe.

“However, while we are committed to reducing our emissions, at the same time we must also ensure that we continue to deliver the best value-for-money for the people of Cheshire.

“This means that on some occasions we may need to continue using fuels which do have a bigger environmen­tal impact, such as the use of petrol and diesel vehicles.

“We are currently rolling out a new fleet of electric vehicles in Cheshire and it is our aspiration that all non-blue-light response vehicles will be electric powered by 2025 - including the vehicles that are used by the senior officers.

“And, in line with government targets, we are hoping to completely phase out all petrol and diesel vehicles by 2035.

“By driving down our own emissions we hope to become a leading example to our communitie­s in Cheshire - and further afield - for reducing carbon emissions.”

North West Ambulance Service (NWAS) told the Weely News it provides 208 lease cars: 22 petrol, 126 diesel, 58 hybrid and two electric. A NWAS spokesman said its policy requires staff to pick vehicles with lower emissions each time they switch vehicles, with a stricter policy for operationa­l cars.

He said: “Our lease car policy has a downward sliding scale year on year for CO2 emissions, ie, each year, the car selections by staff must have a lower CO2 ceiling than the previous year.

“Operationa­l cars must be hybrid or electric-only as per trust agreed policy.”

NHS Halton Clinical Commission­ing Group, which is run by GPs, said that during 2020-21 it paid for 10 lease cars comprising eight electric, one hybrid and one diesel, although it has no policy.

Halton Borough Council said it doesn’t provide company cars but has “committed to being net zero by 2030 for its operationa­l vehicle fleet.” Warrington and Halton Hospitals Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust said it doesn’t fund company or lease cars and doesn’t have a policy.

Cheshire police doesn’t fund company cars, making the issue of policy on make and model not applicable.

Following the release of the data and in his full statement, Greenpeace UK’s chief scientist Dr Doug Parr said: “We should expect the public sector to show some concern for the public good, and try to reduce how much they pollute as fast as possible, but there is another governance issue here - wasting taxpayers’ money.

“Rapid advances in battery technology mean that electric vehicles should be as cheap to buy as petrol and diesel vehicles within three or four years, but for a fleet operator, this shouldn’t be the main considerat­ion.

“Given how much cheaper they are to operate and how much cheaper they are to maintain, not to mention the tax breaks, anyone with an economic outlook that extends beyond this quarter is already buying electric.

“If your fleet operator is still choosing cars powered by petrol or diesel, they’re a bit out of date.”

 ??  ?? ● Doug Parr of Greenpeace
● Doug Parr of Greenpeace

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