‘Rural voice is missing from green recovery plans’ new local authority group declares


21 RURAL authorities have joined forces across England to help each other achieve carbon zero goals and promote the voice of the countryside in the climate change debate.

The Countryside Climate Network (CCN) aims to bring councils together to ensure that the voice of rural knowledge and experience on climate action is listened to in Westminster.

In an open letter the CCN, a cross-party group from every region in England, warns: “Our rural communities are at the frontline of feeling the effects of climate change.

“The driest of springs follows a winter of floods, damaging our food production, bringing hardship to our villages and towns.

“But we can also be at the forefront of climate action too.

“The countryside offers far more than a place to plant millions of trees to offset carbon emissions from elsewhere.

“Rural communities have always been a great source of national progress and innovation.

“This is why we have joined forces with UK100 to launch the Countryside Climate Network.

“We are a new group of ambitious Council Leaders from predominantly rural parts of the country, collectively representing 40% of England’s land area.

“Our goal is to ensure that the voice of rural knowledge and experience on climate action is listened to in Westminster.

“We need to be an active participant in transforming our national economy into one that saves, rather than harms, our environment.

“We stand ready to do our bit in the national interest of securing a net zero future for the UK.”

The 21 councils represent 14.3 million people in total, a quarter of the population (25 per cent) and two fifths (41 per cent) of England by area, with the members including Cornwall, North Yorkshire County, Suffolk County, Essex County and Hampshire County Councils.

The Group’s chairman and leader of Cambridgeshire County Council, Councillor Steve Count, commented on the launch: “From Cornwall to County Durham we have decided to take a stand.

“We’re frustrated that climate solutions and green recovery packages to date have largely missed the rural voice.

“The Government’s £100bn infrastructure fund needs to support the ambitions of rural areas and the opportunities our countryside and green infrastructure can provide.

“It can be hard to meet our ambitions when urban transport services don’t receive funding to reach out to remote communities or because investing in broadband for isolated areas isn’t economically viable.

“These examples of typical rural disadvantage combined with a funding gap in rural areas twice that of our urban counterparts, diminishing our stretched resources further.

“Our rural communities can do more than just plant trees, we know first-hand how climate change impacts our land, food crop productivity, rainfall runoff, abundance of wildlife and rhythm of nature.

“From the Silicon Fen to the Scottish Highlands, we must harness our collective ingenuity.

“However, rural communities face unfair barriers in trying to decarbonise.

“It is harder to attract funding for projects which don’t fit traditional cost benefit analyses, which favour urban concentrations yet may have less overall carbon reduction impact.”

The new network has been established by UK100, a network of UK local authorities, urban, suburban and rural, that focuses climate and clean energy policy.

Polly Billington, Director of UK100, commented: “Climate change affects every area and every person, and rural towns and villages can be more vulnerable to the impacts, such as extreme weather.

“Countryside councils are well placed to tackle climate change and meet the needs and ambitions of their communities for economic recovery and better health and well being, with innovative solutions along with the democratic legitimacy to deliver lasting change.”

The network will also help authorities who want to do more, share ideas and best practice, find solutions and achieve carbon reduction goals.

Councillor Dyan Jones, South Lakeland District Council’s, one of the newest members of the Group, portfolio holder for climate emergency and localism, added: “During this climate emergency, our rural communities can offer so much more than places to plant trees.

“We know first-hand how climate change impacts our land, food crop productivity, rainfall run off, biodiversity and rhythm of nature.

“We are delighted to be part of the Countryside Climate Network and are excited to be able to share our experiences, best practice and ideas with other authorities.

“We look forward to collaborating with network partners to improve further all work influencing and informing; to address the impact of climate change and promote biodiversity within our districts and across the UK.”