31 ways in which Merton Council is tackling its carbon footprint

Over the next two weeks, world leaders will be meeting at COP26 in Glasgow with the aim of carving out a plan to tackle climate change. Climate change is a global problem, but there are many local actions we can take. Here are just some of the ways that we have been working to reduce our carbon footprint in the last few years.

Merton’s Climate Strategy & Action Plan and Climate Delivery Plan

  • In July 2019, Merton Council declared a Climate Emergency and committed to becoming a carbon neutral borough by 2050, and a carbon neutral Council by 2030.
  • In November 2020, the Council approved Merton’s Climate Strategy and Action Plan, which sets out the key actions required to achieve both the Council and borough-wide targets.
  • The plan was informed by extensive consultation with local residents, businesses and organisations, including online surveys, engagement with and input from Merton’s Climate Emergency Working Group (a group of local residents set up to help inform the plan), a stakeholder workshop in February 2020, and engagement with Merton’s Youth Parliament and Young Inspectors. You can find the plan alongside all the supporting evidence and outputs from this consultation on our website.
  • In January 2021, we moved into the delivery phase of the plan with the adoption of Merton’s Climate Delivery Plan Y1 which sets out what action Merton Council is taking to support Merton’s Climate Strategy & Action Plan in its first year of implementation (2021).

Community engagement

  • Given that the vast majority of emissions in Merton (over 98%) are outside the Council’s direct control, local residents, businesses and organisations will have a crucial role to play in Merton becoming a net-zero carbon borough by 2050.  
  • Recognising the important role that the local community has to play in achieving our borough-wide target, in January, we launched Merton’s Climate Action Group. This innovative partnership between the Council and the local community aims to develop community-led projects that reduce Merton’s greenhouse gas emissions and build climate resilience in Merton, where joint efforts are more effective than the actions of individuals or the Council alone.
  • Over the course of 2021, with the help of dedicated community volunteers, Merton’s Climate Action Group has been running a series of events and developing several community projects to help tackle different aspects of climate change in Merton. Key projects include the launch of Merton Garden Streets, a volunteer-led initiative to make our streets greener; promoting local climate action through Merton’s Car Free Day events in September; working in partnership with Merton’s schools improvement team to run a Climate Action Conference for local schools; as well as developing several other project ideas and funding bids including proposals to develop a local circular economy hub and to run energy advice cafes in local schools. We can’t thank our community volunteers enough for all the time they put into making these projects a success and we encourage you all to get involved however you can! You can find out more about the Climate Action Group and/or follow them on Twitter.
  •  In order to raise awareness on climate change, and to encourage people who live, work and study in Merton to take steps in their daily lives to reduce their carbon footprint, we also launched our climate communications campaign in January, focussing on a different theme each month. To play your part in tackling climate change and supporting the delivery of Merton’s Climate Strategy & Action Plan, why not make a pledge and share your pledge story using #MertonClimateAction. 

Our buildings and energy use

  • Over the past 10 years, we have been installing LED lighting in our buildings lowering the electricity demand significantly per site and we will keep installing in our remaining sites until all sites have received LEDs.
  • We now have over 50 PV panel systems on 44 of our buildings across the council’s portfolio, these produce an estimated 1,000,000 kWh every year which significantly reduces our need for electricity from the national grid. We plan to keep exploring options to install new panels on our sites.
  • We’ve installed water monitoring devices across most of our buildings, ensuring we can catch leaks as quickly as possible, reducing wasted water.
  • For the last two and a half years, 100% of the council’s energy supply has come from renewable sources.
  • We’ve started to trial low carbon heating by installing a heat pump to replace the traditional gas boiler at West Barnes library. Over the next 9 years, we aim to install low carbon heating across our entire portfolio of properties.
  • We’ve been investigating how we can use battery power to ensure we get greener and cheaper energy. This works by storing energy from the grid whilst more is being contributed by renewable sources, to use when the wind may not be blowing, or the sun not shining.

Sustainable infrastructure in the borough

  • We have invested £2 million in LED streetlights across the borough. This means we now have converted 10,651 streetlights (82% of all our streetlights in the borough) so far, saving 2,793,943 KWh per year compared to our 2015 street lighting related energy consumption.
  • We have joined up with Sustainable Merton and the Library of Things to bring affordable borrowing right into the centre of Morden – based at Morden Library in the Civic Centre. Launched just at the end of lockdown in March 2021, the residents of Merton have really taken to it – with nearly 600 borrows by the end of September, already saving 3 tonnes of waste from going to landfill!
  • Since the start of the pandemic, we’ve implemented three new permanent Low-Traffic Neighbourhoods in Seely Rd and Links Rd, Commonside East, and Sandy Lane. These are in addition to the longstanding LTNs in South Wimbledon, Colliers Wood and Mitcham.
  • We’ve implemented School Streets, where there is restricted access for vehicles at drop-off and pick-up times, around 30 of our local schools.
  • As part of the Clean Air Village (CAV4) project, with the Cross River Partnership and Love Wimbledon, we are looking to procure a cargo bike and rider service for deliveries for local businesses in Wimbledon Town Centre to encourage behavioural change, showing businesses the ease of switching to cargo bikes for deliveries, ultimately reducing local air pollution and carbon emissions, and saving costs. A cargo bike service was trialled from November 2020 to March 2021 as part of CAV3 and helped support organisations that were directly supporting the NHS and the most vulnerable during the pandemic.
  • We updated our Strategic Flood Risk Assessment in 2020 and 2021 to provide an overview of flood risk across the borough and site-specific recommendations on managing flood risk in allocated sites across the borough which was used to inform our Draft Local Plan. You can check out our updated online mapping to understand the risk of flooding from various sources including rivers, groundwater and surface water risk in any area of Merton.
  • Through the South London Knowledge Exchange project, we are working to create shared and multi-use entrepreneurial workspaces that will help reduce the Borough’s carbon footprint by supporting collaborative projects with local businesses and universities.
  • We’ve installed a range of other sustainable infrastructure across the borough including 44 solar PV Installation, over 200 EV charging points, 20 cycle hangars, 10 parklets, 11 Sustainable urban Drainage Systems and air quality monitoring infrastructure. You can find out more about each of these on our Sustainable Infrastructure Story Map.

Our investments and procurement

  • We have changed our procurement system so that the climate emergency is considered for all contracts over £100K, and any under £100k that have specific carbon impacts.
  • In 2018, we started to measure the carbon intensity of the Merton Pension Fund. Since then, we’ve moved 25% of the fund into low carbon investments, and we’ve used our shareholder power to pressure companies into more sustainable practices. As of June this year our measurable carbon footprint was 30% lower than it was the year before. The Fund’s weighted average carbon intensity has reduced by 60% between 2018 and 2021.
  • As part of Merton’s School Meals Catering Contract review in 2020/2021, the Council reviewed the tender specification and evaluation process for this contract to ensure that the winning bidder offered a service with clear commitments around reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and to promote the delivery of more sustainable menu choices, with a greater emphasis on plant based recipes. This contract review also involved the trial of Merton’s new Social Value Measurement Charter which captures both environmental and wider social benefits, which is now being included in all procurements.
  • The Council fully recognises the fundamental role that our suppliers play in addressing the Climate Emergency, and that having suppliers aligned to our values is essential. The Charter is flexible and allows suppliers to suggest their own innovative ways of tackling climate change aside from the prescribed suggestions on the Charter itself.
  • With our highways maintenance contractor (FM Conway), this summer we trialled a more sustainable warm mix asphalt on three residential streets in Merton as part of our carriageway resurfacing programme. The warm mix asphalt is laid at a reduced temperature compared to traditional hot mix asphalts, which cuts energy usage and reduces the associated carbon emissions by 15% without compromising on the life expectancy of the road surface.
  • In recent years we have managed to halve the carbon impact of treating non-recyclable rubbish collected from households across Merton. Waste is now treated at the state-of-the-art Beddington Energy Recovery Facility (ERF) instead of being sent to the Beddington landfill site (which is now closed). But around half a tonne of carbon is still produced for every tonne of waste we dispose of. We are working with Viridor (the Beddington ERF operators) and our partners in the South London Waste Partnership to baseline, monitor and reduce the carbon impact of our waste treatment activities. A Carbon Management Plan was published in June 2021 and is available here: Residual waste treatment carbon management plan. Of course, the best solution of all is to throw less away in the first place.

Low carbon homes and retrofit

  • Since our Climate Emergency declaration, we have reviewed Merton’s draft Local Plan to ensure that it is consistent with our climate change commitments. Our draft climate change policies set ambitious targets for new development in Merton to ensure that new development is compatible with operating at net-zero carbon by 2050 without requiring expensive retrofit, and doesn’t add to Merton’s retrofit burden. Read our draft climate change policies.
  • Merton doesn’t own any social housing stock but we’ve been working with local housing providers in the borough and other partners like Thinking Works to apply for national decarbonisation funding through the Green Homes Grant Local Authority Delivery scheme, the Sustainable Warmth competition and the Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund to help fund domestic retrofit in Merton.
  • Through the Mayor’s Construction Academy we have worked collaboratively across the South London Partnership to attract, upskill and employ residents in Merton to a range of job opportunities from retrofitting, site office roles and more.