Climate Change and Air Quality Strategy

Last updated: 30 September 2021

11. County-wide

This document needs to shape future strategies and grants so that the activities they influence result in positive impacts on climate change and air quality. New local emission reduction targets also need to be set to help achieve national emissions reduction targets for harmful airborne pollutants that are the most prevalent in the County.


38. Consider emissions in future strategy development and grant funding decisions.

39. Develop targets for the reduction of reactive airborne forms of nitrogen and particulate matter.


Transport is the single largest source of emissions to air in Buckinghamshire. In 2018 transport accounted for 1,452.1 kT CO2 and road vehicle emissions have resulted in exceedances of nitrogen dioxide limits/targets in several areas in the County. Elevated levels of air pollution exist around the motorways (M25, M4, and M40), trunk roads (A40, A404), and other roads that are heavily trafficked.

Road and rail networks are subject to increased risks because of climate change regarding flooding, heat damage, rail buckling, bridge failures, and repair and maintenance costs.

In addition to managing the road network with Highways England, we licence taxis and private hire vehicles, manage footpaths and other rights of way, and have a role in supporting sustainable transport. Considerable work has been done to support walking and cycling, and develop an electric vehicle charging network. 10% of respondents to the engagement survey currently drive an electric vehicle and 60% would consider driving an electric vehicle in the future. 68% of respondents walk instead of driving and over 40% recognised that the council had installed new cycle routes (42%) and electric vehicle charging points (45%). However, over 30% are least likely to cycle instead of drive (30%), use public transport (33%), or car share (44%) largely due to the inconvenience, cost, or not having enough information. Some respondents have cited other practical (for example ‘lack of public transport’), physical limitation (for example age, medical reasons, cycling dangers), information-related (for example scepticism regarding electric vehicles being ‘greener’), or Covid-19 reasons as barriers to shifting to more sustainable transport modes. Over 61% of respondents consider public transport improvements and more walking and cycling initiatives to be very important in tackling climate change and poor air quality. Overcoming barriers to reducing emissions from transport (including a modal shift to low/no emission forms of transport) as far as practicable is critical to achieving our climate change and air quality ambitions. We will also support modal shifts for journeys from Buckinghamshire to other parts of England’s Economic Heartland.

Building on the success of electrifying trains running on the Paddington to Maidenhead route in the south of the County, we look forward to closely working with organisations that are licensed by the council to operate bus routes in the County and others, such as Train Operating Companies and hauliers, to improve transport impacts on the environment.


40. Reduce emissions from taxis and private hire vehicles.

41. Implement initiatives to reduce emissions from freight pursuant to achieving the objectives of the Freight Strategy.

42. Improve infrastructure for active travel (such as walking and cycling) and electric vehicles.

43. Assess the carbon emissions from proposed road schemes.

44. Trial low emission forms of transport, such as electric buses, bikes and scooters.

45. Investigate the feasibility of introducing Low Emission Zones.

46. Reduce unnecessary travel by encouraging regular home working patterns and supporting initiatives that facilitate remote working.

47. Improve traffic management technology on the highway network where practicable to reduce congestion and support more efficient driving.

Buildings and Developments

Activities occurring both in and outside of Buckinghamshire impact air quality and greenhouse gas emissions in the County. Major transport hubs (such as airports and railway stations) and major developments significantly influence traffic volumes, and therefore levels of air pollution, on networks linked to them. We need to work with other local authorities and developers to maximise positive and minimise negative environmental impacts.

We will continue to manage development through planning and building control to ensure new development in Buckinghamshire is achieving these aims. Over 80% of respondents to the engagement survey stated that innovative technologies and approaches, and more wind power and solar photovoltaic projects were important to tackle climate change and poor air quality. Local plans and policies relating to climate change (such as the Canopy Cover SPD and the forthcoming Buckinghamshire Biodiversity Accounting SPD) steer growth towards establishing sustainable places – aligning it with climate change and air quality goals. Government planning reforms, such as the Planning White Paper, influence what we do at a local level. The government is reviewing their roadmap to the Future Homes Standards and is looking at new homes being “zero carbon ready”.


48. Work with neighbouring local authorities and England's Economic Heartland to reduce air pollution impacts from cross-border and major transport hub developments.

49. Produce a Technical Advice Note (TAN) on addressing climate change in new developments.

50. Use opportunities coming out of changes to national planning policy to enhance environmentally sustainable aspects of developments.

Historic Environment

Heritage assets play an important role in addressing climate change and poor air quality and are educational – historic buildings are reused thereby negating the need for new development, and the materials and techniques used for construction are more environmentally friendly (for example less processed, comprised of more natural materials and were sourced more locally than modern equivalents). While the historic environment is particularly vulnerable to environmental change and can facilitate green, blue and sustainable/alternative energy measures, this needs to be weighed up against protecting the significance of heritage sites.


51. Explore means to protect heritage assets from, and use them to address, climate change and poor air quality.


Domestic properties are the second largest source of GHG emissions in the County and a recent survey by Save the Children suggests that many families are cutting back on heating and electricity due to financial concerns. A household is said to be in fuel poverty if their energy costs are above average and their expenditure on energy leaves them with a residual income below the official poverty line.

70% of respondents to the engagement survey are making their homes more efficient, 50% use a ‘green energy’ supplier, and 47% will consider installing a renewable electricity generation system (N.B. 12% have already installed one). Some respondents have stated that there are practical (for example home ownership, planning), or information-related reasons (for example technology reservations) for them not pursuing certain actions.

We want to provide the information that will help people take advantage of the opportunity to improve their environmental impacts and mitigate fuel poverty. We will capitalise on opportunities to reduce emissions from this sector such as promoting the Green Homes Grant scheme.


52. Support registered social housing providers’ implementation of sustainable energy and climate change adaptation initiatives in their stock.

53. Promote opportunities for residents to improve their homes to help them mitigate and/or adapt to climate change and poor air quality.


The Joint Waste Strategy for Buckinghamshire has guided the delivery of waste collection, treatment, disposal, and minimisation initiatives for the county and a new waste strategy is expected in 2022. It is apparent that many people are already minimising their impacts on the environment by: limiting their use of resources (92%), changing behaviour to produce less waste (87%), or reusing or repairing instead of buying new products (80%) (according to the results of the engagement survey).

Existing waste management practices support the achievement of the net zero carbon emission by 2050 target, including the following:

  • requirements for waste contractors to improve the environment impact of the services they provide (for example our contract regarding the transfer, management and treatment of green, food, bulky and wood waste, and management of High Heavens Waste Complex)
  • monitoring carbon emissions associated with the treatment of hazardous medical waste
  • targets to:
    • reduce municipal waste being sent to landfill (target of less than 5%, achieved 0.2% in 2018 to 2019)
    • reduce residual waste produced per household on a yearly basis (less than 450 kg per household in 2019 to 2020)
    • increase the percentage of household waste sent for recycling, re-use or composting on a yearly basis (more than 60% in 2019 to 2020)


The Carbon Disclosure Project has worked with the University College London (UCL) Energy Institute to determine the potential costs to global Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of failing to respond to climate change - $5.4 trillion USD a year by 2070 and $31 trillion USD a year by 2200. This will lead to a 10% reduction in GDP growth rate by 2050 and a 25% reduction by 2100.

Regulating and reducing emissions from industry and supporting businesses and charities that provide goods and/or services to the green economy are classed as being very important in helping tackle climate change and air quality by 80% and ~50% of respondents to the engagement survey respectively. Buckinghamshire’s SMEs have had the opportunity to access grant funding from the Low Carbon Workspaces programme to reduce their carbon emissions. The Connected Counties project is making virtual working (working from home) and teleconferencing more practicable by extending superfast broadband infrastructure in the County – which helps eliminate the need for travel and therefore reduces transport emissions. There is sincere interest in ensuring that schemes like these are available in the future, beyond Britain’s exit from the EU, and support is available to drive the development and provision of products.


54. Encourage the use of recycled, biodegradable, and/or recyclable materials in products.

55. Work with Buckinghamshire LEP to support the development of the green economy in Buckinghamshire.

56. Promote initiatives to reduce emissions from the private and third sector in Buckinghamshire.

Environment, Land and Water

Climate change increases the severity and number of extreme weather events (for example larger amounts of and more intense rainfall in the winter, and hotter and drier periods in the summer) and therefore presents risks to water quality, water infrastructure, biodiversity and land uses. Respondents to the engagement survey identified that they are already being negatively affected by hotter drier summers (59%), and wetter winters (49%), and there are negative impacts on plants (57%) and animals (51%) from climate change.

There are opportunities to manage plants (flora), animals (fauna), land and water sustainably in Buckinghamshire to maintain and improve natural carbon sinks, overcome water scarcity issues, mitigate flooding, and protect and enhance biodiversity. 88% of people responding to the engagement survey stated that tackling climate change by maintaining and protecting natural carbon sinks is very important. 75% consider planting and maintaining trees to be very important and 49% of respondents currently undertake these activities. Buckinghamshire is to benefit from being included in a pilot study funded by Defra and the Council will establish a new Local Nature Recovery Strategy (LNRS) by May 2021. The LNRS will account for climate change and air quality impacts.

Areas of Buckinghamshire have experienced flood events and a Local Flood Risk Management Strategy addresses flood risk and the management of flooding occurrences. The council is the Lead Local Flood Authority and works in partnership with the other the Environment Agency, Water Companies (Thames, Anglian and Affinity), Internal Drainage Board (IDB), Town and Parish Councils and local Flood Action Groups to develop flood management projects and ensure communities are resilient to flooding. Initiatives include a Natural Flood Management pilot study funded by DEFRA and a programme of flood management projects supported and partially funded from DEFRA and the Environment Agency. ~80% of respondents to the engagement survey identified that more flood prevention projects are important in tackling climate change.

Response to the Sustainable Drainage aspects of planning applications continues to be an effective way of managing flood risk from new.

Water companies involved in flood risk management in Buckinghamshire offer free or low cost interventions for people to use at their properties to save water (including Affinity Water, Anglian Water and Thames Water).


57. Work with the Environment Agency and other partners to minimise the risk of flooding and improve community flood resilience.

58. Support the provision of advice and resources to encourage water saving.

Health and Communications

There is clear concern in Buckinghamshire about the future impacts of climate change with 71% if residents worried about water shortages, 69% concerned about food shortages, and 57% concerned about an increase in disease or ill health (according to the results of the engagement survey). 34% are least likely to off-set their carbon emissions (likely to be down to inconvenience, cost, or not having enough information), but some are undertaking other measures to reduce emissions such as growing food, making ethical choices and ‘supporting organisations’.

There is a need to understand more about the health issues that poor air quality and climate change present. Equally important is the essential role that we can play to make information available and accessible so that individuals are better informed about options to improve their impacts on the environment and what we are doing to tackle climate change and air quality. Over 70% of respondents to the engagement survey consider clear and easy to find Information about being environmentally-sustainable and the promotion of environmentally-sustainable living to be very important in tackling climate change and poor air quality. We have used the results of public engagement questionnaires to shape the actions in this strategy and will use further consultation exercises to inform our approach to communications in the long-term.

90% of our time is spent indoors and some activities and materials in this environment are sources of airborne pollutants that are damaging to health (including some building materials, cleaning products, and the combustion of natural gas or wood for heating or cooking). The IPCC’s Third Assessment Report states that climate change can affect human health directly from severe weather events (for example heat stroke from hotter summer weather; or injuries from storms or flooding) or indirectly through changes in the ranges of disease vectors (for example mosquitoes), air quality, and water and food availability and quality. We want to enable everyone in Buckinghamshire to know how they can make a difference and the difference they are making.


59. Raise public awareness of climate change, and indoor and outdoor air quality.

60. Encourage environmentally sustainable living via communications campaigns.