The Nuclear Free Local Authorities (NFLA) publishes today its latest analysis of best practice in the delivery of local, decentralised low carbon programmes by Councils across the UK and Ireland following on from the calling of ‘climate emergencies’ at the national and the local level. (1)
Over 90 Councils in the UK and Ireland have now declared ‘climate emergencies’ with many more Councils also making pledges on the date when they will seek to be ‘zero carbon’ towns, cities or counties. The NFLA report considers how these laudable aims fit in with strategic and well considered plans to achieve such an objective.
The report highlights information from the Greater London Authority and the Greater Manchester Combined Authority that clearly shows that ‘business as usual’ work to achieve zero carbon aims in such a short time frame will be insufficient, so the report tries to highlight the best practice out there to move Councils further and more quickly forward. The report also says there is an urgent need for greater resources from central government to realise such aims at the local level and deliver ‘zero carbon’ Councils.
With UK Government support for energy efficiency and small-scale renewables reducing or stopping entirely, local authorities face a challenging national policy background in meeting any zero carbon targets set as a result of climate emergency resolutions – whether it is for 2030 or 2050.
Despite the difficulties, ‘climate emergency’ resolutions are a clear declaration of the seriousness of the issue and the determination of local authorities do everything in their power to achieve reductions in carbon emissions. The NFLA report argues that the large number of declarations being made should be followed by the generation of some clear policy actions. It also asks central government to facilitate further delegation of powers; the creation of incentives, direct funding and so on that can start to unlock more local actions across the board.
Even though funding remains at a premium, local authorities across the UK and Ireland are still managing to carry out a whole host of innovative projects and actions, which can inspire other Councils, public and private organisations and community energy groups to take similar action.
The report outlines specific examples of best practice, including:
- Edinburgh City Council’s ‘Sustainability Audit’.
- The setting of carbon budgets to scientifically-based criteria from the Tyndall Centre by the Greater Manchester Combined Authority.
- Bristol City Council’s ‘City Leap Prospectus’ seeking to unlock £1bn of investment in low carbon projects.
- Regional Strategies for ‘Low Carbon Action’ undertaken by the likes of the West of England Combined Authority and the Leeds City Region.
- Local authorities as renewable energy generators with specific examples such as Brighton & Hove Council’s solar schools programme, Cornwall County Council’s solar farms project and Cambridgeshire County Council’s solar-plus-energy-storage scheme.
- New joint ventures to develop district heating schemes such as that of Devon County Council and Leicester City Council.
- Rural low carbon programmes such as the Forest of Dean Council’s rural decarbonisation programme and Belfast City Council’s plans to plant a million trees over the next 15 years.
- The visionary work of Nottingham City Council’s energy strategy – the first Council to set up an energy company since the Second World War.
- A long list of other discrete projects from Councils across the UK and Ireland.
The report concludes that all Councils need to link the lofty aims of their climate change emergency resolutions with a broad and funded strategic plan of radical and rapid action. They also need more direct financial support from central government, particularly in the areas of energy efficiency programmes, smart energy and energy storage schemes. In Ireland, Councils need additional powers devolved from central government to give them the freedom to incentivise more rapid low carbon programmes. Local government across the island of Ireland should be given a much greater role in this critical activity than it currently has. NFLA are pleased to see that Wicklow County Councils are the first Council in the Republic of Ireland to call a climate emergency and push for more concerted action from central government.
NFLA Steering Committee Chair, Councillor David Blackburn said:
“We have all seen the radical action of climate change strikes by thousands of schoolchildren and the dramatic closing of parts of our towns and cities by the Extinction Rebellion group. We all now know that there is a climate emergency. But alleviating that emergency is the single biggest challenge of government, locally, nationally and internationally that we have ever faced. In the world of pragmatic local government radical change is never easy, but it must happen and it is happening amongst many Councils. This NFLA report is a serious attempt to show the best practice measures in this area and point all Councils in the right direction.
“We have a short window to achieve this endeavour – I encourage all Councils to read our report and put into action policies that can bring about a zero carbon UK and Ireland in the next couple of decades. I also call on central government to help give Councils the adequate resources to let us get on with it as well. We all need to work together and work fast. NFLA’s mission has always been to call for a safer, resilient and low carbon, nuclear and fossil free world – this report shows again that clear commitment remains at the heart of our vision.”
Ends – for more information please contact Sean Morris, NFLA Secretary, on 00 44 (0)161 234 3244.
Notes for editors:
(1) NFLA Policy Briefing 187 is attached with this media release.