The reality of reaching carbon neutral amid rising energy bills and a cost-of-living crisis
As part of our commitment to tackling inequalities in accessing good quality physical activity and sport provision across Lincolnshire, Active Lincolnshire work collaboratively with all parts of the physical activity and sport sector. This includes the public offer accessed through the leisure facilities in towns across every district, where 86% of people say they prefer exercising over more informal environments (Moving Communities).
On a monthly basis Active Lincolnshire and the seven district leisure leads in the county meet to explore how we collectively ensure that the offer is reaching those who can benefit the most but for whom the service is not yet supporting fully. As part of this work we horizon scan, looking at what the big issues are likely to be and how we can work together to overcome these with minimal adverse impact on the residents of Lincolnshire. For the November meeting, Jenn Huygen from Community Leisure UK (CLUK) attended and presented on Public Leisure and Environmental Sustainability, expanding on their July 2022 publication ‘A guide to becoming more environmentally sustainable’, which was developed in partnership with Sport England Club Matters and BASIS.
Since 2020 public leisure has been a small boat on an increasingly volatile sea, reeling from the financial storms of the various phases of Covid restrictions to the rising energy (and other) costs, as well as a reduction in income as residents face cost-of-living challenges and revise their budgets by cutting out non-essentials. On the horizon is decarbonization and the coming Carbon Net Zero deadline. Just to put these into a reality check:
- Nationally, 40% of council areas are at risk of losing their leisure centre(s) or seeing reduced services before 31st March 2023 (UK Active)
- 74% of council areas are classified as ‘unsecure’ meaning there is a risk of closure of leisure centres and/or reduced services before 31st March 2024 (UK Active)
- Operators face up to 200% higher bills compared to 2019 (UK Active)
- 39% of people agreed the cost-of-living increase has had a negative impact on their ability to be active (Sport England Activity Check-In)
- 53% of people felt that the cost-of-living increase will eventually have a negative impact on their ability to be active going forwards from July 2022 (Sport England Activity Check-In)
- On average public leisure created 10-40% of a council’s direct carbon emissions with older building stock being more likely to have higher emissions (Securing the Future of Public Sport and Leisure Services) Association for Public Service Excellence)
‘A guide to becoming more environmentally sustainable’ builds on CLUK’s COP26 published Climate Change Action Plan and their white paper Leisure and Culture Trusts Role in Tackling Climate Change.
The guide provides practical tools that are useful to all facilities, regardless of size, across key areas including:
- Understanding your impact, setting targets and sharing progress
- Supporting nature and wildlife
- Managing and reducing waste including single-use plastic
- Picking responsible partners, suppliers, sponsors, and investors
- Responsible travel
Sport England provides support across three core areas:
- Supporting Clubs with their reducing energy cost guidance that takes an organisation from taking stock to creating plans of action
- Environmental Sustainability with support for active design, sports facilities, dealing with droughts and floods
- Cost of Living guidance and research on the impact on activity levels and how to get people active at low cost
Active Lincolnshire is committed to supporting the physical activity and sport sector across Lincolnshire to survive this difficult time and provide a consistent, manageable offer for residents of all backgrounds and experiences to access activity. We will continue to develop our knowledge hub to include links to resources and information that will benefit the sector and encourage a greater likelihood of a there remaining a robust and highly valued service in place in 2024.