National body highlights the role of councils in climate action

Photo by Sora Shimazaki:

Councils have a significant role to play in supporting and advancing the UK’s net zero ambitions in partnership with government, industry and communities, according to a national membership body for local authorities.

Following the G7 summit in Cornwall this past weekend and ahead of the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow, the the Local Government Association (LGA) has highlighted some of the work councils are doing across the country to tackle climate change.

Cllr David Renard, Environment spokesperson for the LGA, said: “Councils understand the urgent need to tackle climate change and have been making active changes in their communities to benefit the environment.

“Councils are intrinsic to transitioning our places and empowering our communities and businesses to a net zero future. They are well-placed to translate national climate ambitions into transformative action on the ground.

“By working in partnership with government, councils can continue to shape their local areas to help achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050 or sooner.”

90 per cent of councils have declared a climate emergency and many have been devising and implementing new ways of reducing their carbon footprint, from protecting the environment, increasing biodiversity, and transforming local infrastructure.

Some examples include:

  • Birmingham City Council are due to adopt the The Birmingham Transport Plan in October 2021, which will see Birmingham’s road network transformed to encourage people to walk, cycle and take public transport instead of private car. The Council has recently introduced several new cycling routes and pedestrianised areas, rolled-out e-scooters, e-cargo bikes and bicycle hire, with hydrogen buses to be rolled out later this year.
  • Oxford City Council and its wholly owned company, ODS, introduced the first purpose-built, fully integrated electric refuse collection vehicle this year, providing emission free waste collection services. The Council is aiming to reach absolute zero carbon for its direct activities by 2030, and ODS is looking to convert 25 per cent of its fleet to electric by 2023.
  • Surrey County Council has launched a Solar Together Surrey initiative aimed at helping residents to make the switch to solar energy in their homes. Other Solar Together schemes across the country have helped over 3,700 households install solar panels, saving over 61,000 tonnes of carbon emissions.
  • Eastleigh Borough Council have reduced their operational emissions by 35 per cent since 2008 and have set a target of becoming carbon neutral by 2025. This will be achieved by further improving the energy efficiency of buildings, transitioning council vehicles to electric/Ultra Low Emission Vehicles and ‘greening’ their procurement.
  • Middlesbrough Council has committed to making the authority net carbon neutral in the next eight years. They are looking to hold a climate conference with its partners, have gained ‘World Tree City’ status, planted 15,000 trees and sown 30,000 square metres of urban flower meadows and acquired five new electric vehicles.
  • City of York Council have secured planning permission for the first phase of one of the UK’s largest net zero carbon housing developments. The site of Passivhaus homes is announced to be net zero when in use and use air source hear pumps and solar panels to generate renewable energy, giving residents ‘very low’ energy bills.
  • Waltham Forest Council retrofitted sheltered housing schemes by developing a solar-powered system that can generate and store enough electricity to power the lifts and LED lighting in communal areas, both day and night. In the first six weeks this is reported to have reduced the amount of energy imported from the grid by almost 41 per cent.
  • Leicester City Council’s Santander Cycles Leicester is a public e-bike share system for the city, owned by Leicester City Council, delivered by Ride On and supported by the Department for Transport (DfT) and Santander UK. Leicester specific businesses also support the scheme as a ‘socially inclusive, affordable, easy to use and zero emission’ option for active travel.

Further resources about a local path to net zero is available on the LGA website.