12/10/2021 - Countryside COP Special Meeting - Uniting Rural Communities to Tackle Climate Change

The Rural Services Network was delighted to host an online event focusing on tackling climate change as part of the wider Countryside COP event .

The event was open to all, so non members of the RSN were invited to attend, enabling the network to reach a wide audience to discuss key issues for rural communities. 

With over 100 delegates, discussion focused on Rural Transport and Rural Energy Efficiency and key learning outcomes and recommendations from the breakout rooms are available below.

- To download the Agenda for this special meeting click here

- To download the Learning Outcomes from this special meeting click here

- To download the Recommendations from the delegates of this special meeting click here


Learning Outcomes:
Key Learning Points
Setting the scene for rural areas and decarbonisation
  • Rural areas must be included in policy solutions for decarbonisation, an approach focussed solely on urban alone would fair.
  • There are particular characteristics of rural areas which can make decarbonisation challenging
      • Distances required to travel to access services, employment and education/training
      • Transport options
      • State of Rural Housing Stock
      • Fuel Poverty gap is large in rural areas
      • Lower incomes earned in rural areas
  • Opportunities for rural areas in relation to the green economy and diversification of land use, changes in the way we live with less travel, and focus on local food and support for local businesses
  • Revitalising Rural Campaign sets out asks of Government in relation to Decarbonising Rural Communities and Economies

Challenges facing the transport sector in rural areas moving towards net zero
  • The option of all moving to electric cars, is not the overall solution to moving towards net zero, it still causes congestion and is currently expensive option.
  • Need a modal shift of transport away from car to public transport
  • Issues remain for rural communities:
    • Public transport is not a statutory service and there have been cuts in services where they are not financially viable in rural areas and councils have been unable to provide ongoing financial support due to reduced government grants.
    • Electrifying the bus network has its own challenges – electric buses are significantly more expensive, range of electric buses not suitable for average rural route, concerns over capacity of the national grid in rural areas
  • Hydrogen fuel cells are an alternative although the buses are significantly more expensive
  • Important to educate the public about the choices they make in relation to transport and encourage the shift to public transport to support decarbonisation and realise wider benefits.
The challenges of net zero heating in rural homes
  • Around 2 million homes in rural areas off gas grid high proportion are hard to treat for example it’s hard to move to high levels of energy efficiency without significant disruption and cost.
  • Rural homes will need alternatives to heat pumps which require high levels of energy efficiency and insulation in to be effective.
  • Green GasBio LPG could be an alternative – same molecules as conventional LPG but derived not from fossil fuel but instead renewable sources, mixture waste and crop residues. Suitable for use in normal boilers.
  • Government is pursuing ‘rural first’ approach to fossil fuel phase out however rural households won’t benefit from economies of scale, high costs and absence of consumer testing in that technology in rural homes.
  • Need for regulatory and policy support from Government to recognise benefits of Bio LPG
  • Future of heat in off-gas grid UK should be diverse and decarbonised, and choices made dependent on options suitable for homeowners situation.
Useful Links from discussions

World Wildlife Fund tool to calculate your carbon footprint

Impact Community Carbon Calculator - Impact, the parish-level carbon emission estimator, gives parishes and small communities usable data on their carbon emissions that is easy to interpret and easy to share.

Great Collaboration – local actions for a healthy planet – track and capture carbon reduction actions that individuals, businesses and community groups are doing. Platform can inform Parish Carbon Reduction Action Plans

Cheshire Net Zero Carbon Conference

Biomethane Powered Buses launched in Bristol

CPRE report into Every Village Every Hour Buses

Low Emission Car Hire Service in South West

Driverless Pods on roads ‘within two years’

Driverless Pod Trial in Lake District

How renewable liquid fuels can deliver a low carbon future for rural households

Rural Services Network Useful Links

RSN’s Revitalising Rural Campaign Specific Policy Asks of the Government is for fairer distribution of national resources to rural areas and more nuanced national policies. 

The full campaign can be accessed at www.rsnonline.org.uk/revitalising-rural

The chapter on Rural Transport can be accessed at here.
The chapter on Decarbonising Rural Communities can be accessed at here.
The chapter on Rural Housing can be accessed at here.

As new Government strategies are announced, RSN puts them through a “Rural Lens Review” which adds depth and texture to the Policy Asks

All Rural Lens Review Documents
Rural Lens Review of Sustainable Warmth Policy
Rural Lens Review of National Bus Strategy

RSN Member Insights produced by Dan Worth, Research & Performance Analyst, RSN.  Please click on the link to access the data analysis

Rural Transport
  • Future transport options for rural areas should educate people on their carbon footprint and encourage a modal shift away from reliance on private car to alternative sustainable options
  • Reduce the need to travel – with improved rural connectivity, maintenance of local services and sustainable communities
  • Major sustained investment by government is needed to make rural public transport useful and convenient to use and affordable. People need to be able to rely on it as a feasible option for accessing employment, skills and services.
  • Although rural areas will not achieve same volumes as urban areas, for example in passenger numbers, or people who can access schemes, they are still vital to ensure that rural areas can access services, employment and skills and need investment.
Rural Energy Efficiency in Homes
  • Grants for rural areas need to be aligned to rural needs and circumstances
  • Government must provide Decarbonisation Funding which could help with re-skilling the local labour force
  • Decarbonisation as part of the planning process – to ensure that measures are incorporate not just for new homes but extensions too. New homes should not only be affordable but affordable to maintain too with low fuel bills.
  • Community Energy Solutions to benefit from economies of scale
Additional Information

The Rural Services Network Revitalising Rural Campaign is asking for a fairer distribution of national resources to rural areas and more nuanced national policies. 

The full campaign can be accessed at www.rsnonline.org.uk/revitalising-rural

The individual chapters set out a number of asks of Government.


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