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. This report now goes into more detail with its ‘manifesto’ for low carbon climate action. (1)
With over 200 Councils in the UK and Ireland now declaring ‘climate emergencies’, and the dramatic large-scale actions of support across the world seen last Friday, this NFLA report looks at the tangible next steps that Councils need to take.
A core part of the focus of this report arises from the legal challenge being put on many Councils by the NGO ‘Client Earth’ seeking for them to produce evidence-based carbon budgets to realise the ambitions set out in climate emergency resolutions for large carbon cuts in the next decade. (2) It also notes the joint letter of 18 influential civil society organisations that argues government needs to more than double its current spending on climate change mitigation measures. (3) In both cases, while acknowledging the real challenge that is required, ‘Client Earth’ note that: “there are substantial benefits to climate-sensitive planning, such as improving local economies and creating jobs. Climate action at a local level can transform people’s quality of life for the better, with clear net benefits to health, air and water quality, employment, energy affordability, community cohesion and biodiversity.”
Whilst agreeing with this positive part of the challenge to mitigate climate change, NFLA argue in their report that a core issue has to be fairness, bringing all parts of society together in order that all can benefit from these endeavours. If this educative role in climate action is not undertaken by Councils, these policies and changes can create resentment and even outright opposition. NFLA recommend Councils consider setting up Citizen Commissions to engage with the local community on how they wish to see low carbon policies develop – in the report Camden Council, Manchester Climate Change Agency / Greater Manchester Combined Authority and the Leeds Climate Change Trust are mentioned positively for their work in this area.
Other key recommendations of the report include:
- A whole section of ideas on how Councils unlock finance to fund low carbon work, seeing Council Pension Funds as a key partner within this. Swansea Pension Fund is mentioned as a good example in this area.
- Mobilising the billions spent on annual public procurement to support the product and service innovation the climate emergency response requires.
- Local Authorities could collectively announce they will no longer be buying fossil fuel powered vehicles. NFLA give the example of its member Dundee City Council, which has the largest fleet of vehicles of any Council powered by renewable energy.
- Signal that town and city centres will be vehicle emission free by 2030.
- Promote pro-active walking, cycling and public transport strategies.
- Enhance Energy Efficiency in existing council buildings.
- Switch street lighting to well-designed and well-directed LED lights as quickly as is practical.
- All new local authority buildings should be ‘zero-carbon’.
- Enhance building standards to deliver ‘zero-carbon’ homes and buildings.
- Accelerate energy efficiency retrofits scheme, using regulation and public funding to support almost all homes and buildings reaching at least EPC Band C by 2030, and zero-carbon by 2045.
- Local Authorities should purchase 100% renewables electricity for their own use.
- Local Authorities should start (or continue) planning for zero carbon heating in their areas by their target date for net-zero carbon.
- Identify areas suitable for renewable energy in their local planning spatial strategy.
The NFLA report concludes that, while it is welcome Councils have come to a greater understanding of the real urgency of the climate emergency, the challenge now is to put that talk into action. Councils need to deliver on some of the policies noted above and put a plan of action with clear targets to assist in that delivery. Whilst this definitely requires financial support from central government, there is much Councils can do in the meantime. Our member authorities are doing just that, with the report showing the detailed climate change action plans of Glasgow City Council and Edinburgh City Council as good examples to follow by Councils across the UK and Ireland.
UK & Ireland NFLA Steering Committee Chair, Councillor David Blackburn said:
“This new NFLA report on how Councils tackle the climate emergency is evangelical in tone as it acknowledges that there has to be real urgency in delivering ‘zero carbon’ towns, cities and counties by as early as 2030. Through a systematic approach, NFLA provides detail on how a Council can deliver on their promise. It requires finance, a clear plan of action and a set of realisable targets. The report shows some fantastic examples being carried out to encourage Councils in pursuing the most challenging task they have ever had to deliver. Given the millions who turned out around the world last Friday to promote the urgency of the climate challenge, and the billions more who want it to happen, these policies have to be fair and have to put local communities at the heart of it. The climate emergency is also an opportunity to transform our economy to create people-centred low carbon towns, cities and counties. NFLA has called for a renewable revolution much earlier than most organisations, it is indeed what we have always been about; and now is the time for Councils to deliver on those bold promises.”
Ends – for more information please contact Sean Morris, NFLA Secretary, on 00 44 (0)161 234 3244.
Notes for editors:
(1) NFLA Policy Briefing 191 is attached with this media release.
(2) Business Green, 2nd September 2019
https://www.businessgreen.com/bg/news/3081023/clientearth-puts-councils-on-notice-over-climate-inaction and Client Earth, 2nd September 2019
(3) Greenpeace 2nd September 2019
https://www.greenpeace.org.uk/news/lack-of-climate-investment-creating-planet-sized-debt-for-our-kids-new-chancellor-warned/ and https://www.greenpeace.org.uk/resources/government-invest-climate-nature-emergency/