New Skidmore report calls for policies to help local authorities reach net zero

Chris Skidmore MP. (Credit Alistair Veryard Photography / UK100)

In the wake of Rishi Sunak’s net zero announcements last week, the former Energy Minister who was responsible for signing the UK’s net zero commitment into law has joined forces with Conservative Mayor Baron Houchen and UK100 in a new report.

Titled “The Future is Local”, the report seeks not only to highlight the continued challenges facing the local delivery of net zero but to set a new framework for ensuring local authorities and regions have the certainty to achieve their net zero ambitions.

Co-author Chris Skidmore OBE MP commented: “In too many discussions about the UK’s Net Zero commitments, the vital role of local and regional government is overlooked. Against a backdrop of wavering central government support, councils and regions are already leading the way on climate action, with many aiming to deliver Net Zero ahead of national targets.

“The Local Mission Zero Network’s first report, The Future Is Local, sets out over thirty recommendations to further the Net Zero Review’s local delivery mission. It’s clear that if central government won’t step up, it should get out of the way and allow local and regional leaders to forge ahead with their positive vision to achieve local Net Zero in partnership with communities up and down the country.

“Unleashing their ambition is the most effective way to harness the economic and regional growth opportunities that Net Zero can unlock.”

The report makes 31 recommendations, grouped into five overarching themes and key recommendations:

  1. Introduce a Local Net Zero Charter to agree responsibilities and enhance partnership between the UK government, devolved governments and regional, city and local authorities.
  2. Hasten the adoption, consistency, and success of Local Area Energy Plans across the UK.
  3. Develop a local Net Zero Delivery Framework to enable collaboration between UK Government and local and regional authorities, using The Local Net Zero Forum.
  4. Simplify and enhance the Net Zero funding and financing landscape to support local and regional authorities with longer-term certainty, while also enabling effective public-private partnerships that can unlock inward investment.
  5. Commence an urgent review in 2023, of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) to ensure that the NPPF is better aligned to the scale and urgency of the Net Zero, nature recovery and adaptation challenges.

Christopher Hammond, Chief Executive of UK100, a network of local leaders who have pledged to lead a rapid transition to Net Zero in their communities ahead of the government’s legal target, added: “Chris Skidmore and Lord Houchen’s The Future Is Local report couldn’t be more timely.

“With the Prime Minister signalling a watering down of national Net Zero action, the ambitious local and regional authority-led climate action spotlighted in this report is only becoming more vital.

“Climate action is a responsibility that local government is ready to take on. However, with great responsibility should come great power. Or at least adequate power.

“Yet, at the moment, local and regional authorities are delivering despite a “kafkaesque” Net Zero regulatory framework and disjointed, short-term, competitive funding. Net Zero offers so much local and regional economic growth potential. To unleash it, Ministers need to heed the recommendations in this report and empower local authorities to lead the way. The future is local.”

The new report is available here.