Minister thanks councils for efforts in tackling climate change

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Image by Mohamed Hassan from Pixabay

In his speech at London Climate Action Week, Eddie Hughes (Parliamentary Under Secretary for Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government) recognised ‘the vital work of councils to mobilise their efforts to combat climate change and meet the government’s net zero targets.’

Minister Hughes stated that councils’ expert knowledge of their communities allow them to help deliver net zero across energy, housing and transport in ways most suited to people in their area.

By joining up across functions such as public health, planning, housing and air quality, they can get wider benefits from decarbonisation, such as reducing inequality, community integration and a green economic recovery.

Minister Hughes commented: “The COVID-19 pandemic has raised many fundamental questions about the way we live our lives.

“As we have all worked from home, we have spent more time in our local neighbourhoods and built ties with the people who live around us.

“Building back better from this pandemic means not only ensuring that new development is greener and better for the environment, but that it supports healthy, happy and flourishing communities.”

Most councils are already taking some form of action. Minister Hughes cited innovative work across the country – including in the capital, where the London Plan includes measures to ensure the environmental ambition of major developments is included at the start of the design process.

Plymouth meanwhile has installed solar panels on council buildings, saving up to £1.4 million on its energy bills. It is also providing grants to help 500 fuel-poor families make their homes more energy efficient.

Leeds has introduced co-buying schemes for home upgrades, to reduce the cost for families of making their homes more energy efficient. And Hampshire has invested in digital tools to ensure it factors carbon impacts and climate risk into all its decisions.

He added that the government’s planning reforms emphasise environmental outcomes, not just processes.

This reflects the call from the Climate Change Committee for councils to collaborate with communities and businesses, and with each other, to deliver local projects that support net zero.

According to the government, MHCLG’s own achievements to date include:

  • National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) sets out how councils should ensure new developments are not vulnerable to climate change.
  • Planning for the future white paper states that environmental concerns and transition to net zero should be embedded in the planning system.
  • The Future Buildings Standard consultation set out proposals to reduce the risk of overheating in new residential buildings by introducing a new overheating mitigation requirement in the Building Regulations.
  • From 2025, the Future Homes Standard is set to ensure that new homes produce at least 75% less CO2 emissions than homes built now.
  • The government has made over £1 billion available to councils to increase the energy efficiency of low-income households in England.

Minister Hughes added: “The Planning Bill will establish a clear set of rules – from where communities want homes to be built, to the high design and environmental standards that must be met – while complementing the commitments we are making in the Environment Bill.

“This includes making it mandatory for the vast majority housing and developments to achieve at least a 10% net gain in value for biodiversity, ensuring new developments enhance the environment, contribute to our ecological networks and conserve our precious landscapes.”