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Government must support local authorities in tackling climate crisis

Words: Laura Edgar
Support / iStock-836571072

The role of place is ‘fundamental’ to addressing the climate crisis and the government must support local authorities in addressing it. 

A new coalition argues that the UK’s net-zero carbon target, which was set in June last year by the government, could only be achieved with the contribution of councils working at the local level. 

Any work to aid the recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic must also address the climate crisis. 

The coalition comprises:

  • The Association of Directors of Environment, Economy, Planning and Transport (ADEPT)
  • Ashden 
  • Friends of the Earth 
  • The Grantham Institute at Imperial College 
  • Greenpeace UK
  • The London Environment Directors’ Network (LEDNet)
  • The Place-Based Climate Action Network at LSE
  • Solace 

A report by the coalition (see box), which comprises local government, environmental and research organisations, considers how the government can speed up climate action and guarantee a green recovery from the pandemic. 

Sandra Bell, policy analyst at Friends of the Earth, said: “While we grapple with the fallout from Covid-19 the climate crisis has not gone away, neither has the urgent need to restore nature. It is not possible to deal with these issues without the full involvement of local communities and councils. But councils don’t have the powers and resources they need, and are having to operate with one arm tied behind their backs. This report identifies the immediate changes needed to unleash the energy and creativity that exists at a local level to begin rebuilding our economy and fixing our pushed-to-the-limit planet.”

Public money should not be used to return to business as usual as the UK recovers, argues the report. The government must recognise the role of local councils in tackling the climate and ecological crises and support it. 

Their knowledge of local communities and businesses, their service delivery and regulatory function, and their partnership and procurement power enables them to drive reductions in carbon emissions across their areas. 

According to the coalition, local authority programmes and interventions can deliver better public health, reduced inequalities, a healthier environment, encourage sustainable consumption and thriving local economies.

It has set out five immediate priorities that it wants the government to work on with local authorities.

  • Creating a joined-up, multibillion-pound place-based, clean infrastructure fund to enable local authorities to develop low-carbon and climate-resilient infrastructure.
  • Joining up the National Skills Fund, the National Retraining Scheme and the Apprenticeship Levy at local level to support reskilling, retraining and research for a net-zero well-adapted economy.
  • Establishing a programme to retrofit the UK’s building stock with energy and water efficiency and low-carbon heating, as one of our national infrastructure investment priorities.
  • Enabling local authorities to significantly increase homeworking, cycling and walking provision – as they have a special role to play in recovery from coronavirus, and would continue to play an important role in decarbonising transport.
  • Speeding up delivery of the £800 million Nature for Climate Fund to restore nature for all and enable community health and wellbeing through accelerating tree planting and peatland restoration. Support green spaces and other green infrastructure by properly funding local authorities to manage parks, open spaces and public rights of way.

The report was written following consultation with local authorities across the country.

Nigel Riglar, president of ADEPT, said: “The impact of Covid-19 has already seen councils move rapidly to reallocate road space, prioritise cycling and walking and implement measures to support social distancing. The role of place, with its focus on transport, planning, housing, environment and economy, is fundamental to addressing the climate emergency. If we are to reach the government’s national net-zero ambition and support economic renewal, local authorities and their communities must have the support and resources they need to deliver. Together, people and places up and down the country will achieve extraordinary things and government must help them go further and faster.”

The report can be found here on the ADEPT website.

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