The Nuclear Free Local Authorities (NFLA) welcomes Manchester City Council’s resolution declaring a climate emergency, following on from previous declarations to attain ‘net zero’ carbon emissions. The challenge for it, as for all Councils across England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland, is how to realise these ambitious declarations of intent over the next decade or so.
Over 100 Councils have now passed ‘climate emergency’ resolutions, as have the UK Parliament and the Irish Dail. Manchester’s declaration notes:
- The serious risks to Manchester’s people, of climate change/global heating affecting economic, social and environmental well-being, supply chains – including food security, financial systems and local weather, among many others.
- That in 2008 the ‘Principles of Tackling Climate Change in Manchester’ were agreed as a call to action to engage people from all walks of life in climate change action and, build support for a new way of thinking about climate change.
- That Manchester leads the way, with an agreed Paris compliant carbon budget set in December 2018 and an acceleration of the target for becoming a zero-carbon city by 12 years, setting 2038 as the new target for the city, based on research from the world-renowned Tyndall Centre for Climate Change.
- The recent and welcome upsurge of action by the young people of Manchester, exemplifying the radical traditions of which Manchester is proud. (1)
At the meeting, an amendment was accepted which agreed that the Council would consider the possibility and practicality of moving to a 2030 target for becoming carbon neutral.
NFLA has developed a detailed Policy Briefing considering this welcome trend from Councils in highlighting their deep concern over climate change and the need for urgent action. The report showcases some of the more radical ways to encourage rapid carbon reductions across local government, while saying that there remains a ‘gap’ in achieving ‘net zero’ emissions that requires both changes in central government policy and significant financial resource coming to local Councils to realise on their ambitions. (2)
Whilst NFLA welcome that the UK Government have finally committed to a 2050 zero emissions target – which is considerably less ambitious than that of local government – it is concerning to read the criticisms of the independent Committee on Climate Change that it finds the UK Government are ill-prepared to cut emissions fast enough and adapt to rising temperatures. The Chair of the Committee even likened the Government’s strategy to the hapless characters in the BBC comedy ‘Dad’s Army’. (3)
NFLA believe there is a need for concerted effort across all aspects of the ‘climate emergency’ – decarbonising energy, heat and transport. It believes renewables are the cheapest, easiest and most sustainable form of energy to deploy as part of this challenge, coupled with energy efficiency measures, smart energy solutions and battery storage. It remains concerned that the UK Government is obsessed with seeing new nuclear power as a core answer to this challenge. This is at a point when it remains unlikely that even the first proposed new nuclear station at Hinkley Point C may not be delivered until the late 2020s at the earliest, given the current delays to other EDF plants in France and Finland. Other proposed reactors may not be operation until well into the 2030s onwards. That is all too little, too late.
NFLA note that in a Parliamentary answer provided to Caroline Lucas MP, the UK Government reported that over a third of their staff in the BEIS (Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) Department working on energy matters are focused entirely on nuclear policy. This compares with under 20% of staff dedicated to delivering renewable energy solutions. (4) With strong suggestions billions of pounds of taxpayer money will be offered to the nuclear sector in a new financial model to fund new nuclear reactors, there has to be deep questions over the direction of UK energy policy to deliver on urgent ‘zero carbon’ commitments. Available finance should be offered to support the type of innovative renewable energy, heating and transport solutions being advocated across local government; and it should be prioritised now.
NFLA are currently finalising a new report which outlines the climate change issue in Ireland and the need to urgently step-up policy measures and finance. The report will also advocate giving Councils a much more prominent role with new powers commensurate to allow similar dynamic measures as are being taken by local government in England, Scotland and Wales.
NFLA have profiled climate mitigation work undertaken by Councils in recent meetings in Dundee (5) and Leeds (6) and have plans to do the same at upcoming meetings in Swansea and in Ireland.
NFLA Steering Committee and English Forum Chair Councillor David Blackburn said:
“I welcome Manchester’s commitment to challenge at all levels the climate emergency and that of Councils of all political hue doing the same across England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland. The real challenge comes now – transforming ambitious statements into comprehensive plans of action. NFLA has shown in its recent report some of the most effective ways forward and it will continue to extol best practice in this area. But it is clear that much more extensive action by the UK and Irish Governments to provide support to the local government sector is essential. It is only by all governing agencies, the private and voluntary sectors working together that we can tackle the climate emergency. After a crushing period of cuts, local government needs both some slack from central government, enhanced powers and more resource to deliver ‘net’ zero emissions much sooner than later. Let’s see some action from them central government, not just warm words.”
Ends – for more information please contact Sean Morris, NFLA Secretary, on 00 44 (0)161 234 3244.
Notes for editors:
(1) Manchester City Council motion on the climate emergency, 10th July 2019 –
(2) NFLA Policy Briefing on the climate emergency and local authority action,
(3) BBC News, 10th July 2019 –
(4) Parliamentary answer by Chris Skidmore MP to Caroline Lucas MP on staffing in the energy part of the BEIS department –
(5) Presentations on climate change and local government at the NFLA Scotland meeting in Dundee City Chambers –
(6) Presentations on climate change and local government at the NFLA English Forum meeting in Leeds Town Hall –