Local authorities need more support from the central government to reach net zero, says new report

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By autumn 2020, 75% of local authorities in England had declared a climate emergency, but are held back from acting on the climate crisis by a lack of long term funding, resources and support from central government, according to a new report by Green Alliance.

In ‘The local climate challenge: a new partnership approach’, the think tank argues that a new approach where local authorities are seen by government as crucial partners is needed in the drive to achieve the national net zero goal.

Local authorities have responsibilities for transport and housing, two of the highest emitting sectors, in their areas and the report urges the central government to offer local authorities more funding and training to allow decarbonisation in their areas.

The think tank recommends a new policy framework, which would form a baseline for local action by setting out expectations for all levels of government.

According to Green Alliance, this framework should include:

  • Ways to overcome current barriers for decarbonisation.
  • Agreed methodology to monitor and report emissions under local authorities’ direct control.
  • A single point of contact within central government focused on local authority decarbonisation.
  • A strategic approach to addressing in-house skills gaps within local authorities and a new national green skills strategy.
  • ‘Sufficient and stable funding’ to allow councils to plan ahead and prevent environmental imperatives being deprioritised.
  • Reforms to the planning system that put sustainable housing and transport at their heart.

The recommendations in the report were developed working with six local authorities and also features anonymised interviews with representatives of 12 other authorities across England to hear directly about the challenges they are facing in their decarbonisation efforts.

Some of the councils with less resources interviewed for the report explained that they might not have the in-house skills that are necessary for them to access climate funding, instigate a climate strategy or roll it out to other departments within the authority.

The full report can be read from the Green Alliance website.