Blog

How to accelerate local progress towards carbon neutrality

From passing a climate emergency motion to a meaningful programme of action

Simon Roberts OBE, Centre for Sustainable Energy, 18 March 2019

The roll-call of local authorities which have passed motions declaring a climate emergency grows day by day. What started in Bristol in November last year has been spreading like a benign virus through council chambers across the land, infecting the political discourse with new commitment to take urgent local action to cut carbon emissions rapidly to virtually zero.

So what needs to be done locally to turn this fresh political commitment into meaningful programmes of action and participation which genuinely accelerate local progress in cutting emissions?

Beyond a typical response

A typical response would be for a council to commission a swathe of analytical work detailing how the new emissions target embedded in the motion (typically carbon neutral by 2030) might be achieved locally – if at all. The analysts and consultants are called in and everyone waits to find out what the plan is.

This is not a useless exercise; it will tend to produce a list of technological choices (from building retrofit to EV take-up) which details the quantities in which they have to be adopted from now until 2030 to meet the target. But such an exercise misses the point.

The problem is not that we are unfamiliar with the actions which need to be taken to cut emissions such that we must have them spelled out to us (though perhaps some do still want this).

The problem is that the individuals, communities, businesses and organisations that together make up a local area are not yet doing these actions in sufficient quantities to cut emissions fast enough. There are reasons why this is currently the case and it is those ‘reasons’ which must be tackled to accelerate progress.

So another approach is required if these motions are to generate the meaningful and above all effective programmes of local action which they seek.

Stimulating the great acceleration

This approach involves treating the climate emergency motion as principally a call to accelerate the pace at which we’re collectively making all the changes we already know are required to cut emissions: to scale up, speed up and start up the things we know need to happen and know how to do. And to give up doing things which are incompatible with the local area becoming carbon neutral.

Immediately the focus becomes how to recruit the initiative-takers, enrol the key institutions and businesses, and reach beyond the council to build a partnership of the willing to contribute to the great acceleration in action to cut emissions sought by the motion.

Local authorities differ in the extent to which such wide-ranging and inclusive partnerships are already in place or emerging in their localities. But nurturing one is undoubtedly a necessary condition for success for the society-wide transformation inherent in achieving carbon neutrality.

Within such partnerships and more widely, individual and organisational commitments to contribute need to be concentrated quite specifically on what each individual or organisation is going to do next. Their ‘first next steps’ start from where they find themselves and seek to change something so more can be achieved. The steps must be possible without someone else taking action first (typically ‘national government’). Of course, there’s a need to look at what others with power need to do to make action by everyone easier, cheaper, quicker, better, more inclusive – and lobbying for these changes could be one of the first next steps.

We can’t outsource change

But to leave it there – a list of recommendations for ‘someone else’ to deliver – would be to outsource change. It would be to ignore the role we each have through our own direct actions in our lives and in our work and through the influence we can bring to bear on others. And it would be to underestimate how that role played well can lead to more systemic changes which would re-shape everyone’s actions.

Achieving carbon neutrality needs people and organisations to make huge changes in their own practices and choices and in how they seek to influence others. By doing so they can set new norms of behaviour, drive new initiatives, and secure wider participation. And they help to create the conditions in which others will find it easier to take action themselves and join in – including national politicians and regulators who design market rules and set funding priorities.

That’s why at a recent Bristol Green Capital Partnership event on ‘accelerating progress towards a carbon neutral Bristol’, one of the asks of the 180 attendees from across the city was to make and share their own commitments to ‘next step’ actions ‘at home’, ‘at work’ and ‘in our communities’.

We were putting into action the aphorism ‘If not us then whom? If not now, then when?’, much quoted by proposers of the climate emergency motions in different councils as they closed their debates and moved to a vote. Aside from a resonant rhetorical flourish, the aphorism provides a useful starting point for building the meaningful programme of action and participation required in response to the climate emergency: start with the willing and focus first on what they will commit to do next to accelerate progress.

Simon Roberts OBE is Chief Executive of the charity the Centre for Sustainable Energy and a non-executive director of Bristol Green Capital Partnership CIC.

Mayors Network for Climate Solidarity – Promoting local climate leadership in Poland

Mayors Network for Climate Solidarity – Promoting local climate leadership in Poland

UK100 is supporting the development of a network of local leaders committed to climate action in Poland. The Mayors’ Network for Climate Solidarity was launched at Katowice during COP 24. With a pledge inspired by that of UK100, tailored to the circumstances in Poland, the network of Mayors is committed to LED lighting in their cities, and tackling the chronic air pollution that blights the country from coal fired heating and cooking. It has the backing of former Presidents Lech Walesa and Aleksander Kwaśniewski

 

Investing in Local Energy: National conference

Investing in Local Energy: National conference

Every area of the UK has the potential to develop clean, local energy projects that deliver better homes, improved transport, high quality jobs, carbon reductions and long-term financial returns. Local authorities are key to making this happen. They have a long-term interest in the success of their communities, but many face challenges in identifying projects, developing the business case for investment and securing relevant sources of finance.

This programme – supported by BEIS, and run by UK100 and the Leeds Climate Commission – seeks to address those challenges by bringing local authorities, developers and investors together. The aim is to accelerate the development of a pipeline of investor-ready clean energy projects.

We kicked off with the the first-ever national conference on financing the transition at as local level, aiming to unlock £2bn+ of clean, local energy projects in the UK. The conference connected local authorities with those ready to invest hundreds of millions of pounds in private finance. We heard from Claire Perry MP, minister for energy, and speakers including Barclays, Green Banking Council and Siemens, as well as local authority frontrunners who are developing innovating business models that are already transforming communities around the UK.  

previous arrowprevious arrow
next arrownext arrow
Shadow
Slider

 

UK100 surveyed the attendees of the conference. The results point to the infrastructure and policy changes we need to speed up the transition to a low-carbon future.

 

Investing in Local Energy Regional workshop programme 2019

Investing in Local Energy Regional workshop programme 2019

How can local authorities engage work with partners to develop a pipeline of investable projects in their area? How can investors make best use of the enormous opportunities that exist? Where and how will local authorities access the advice and support they need?

Throughout 2019, we will be holding workshops across the country to bring together local councils, developers and investors, energy generators, regulators and operators to answer these questions, understand local practice, the barriers to investment and how they can be overcome. We will be announcing locations and dates soon. If you’re interested to take part please email localenergy@uk100.org

This programme – supported by BEIS, and run by UK100 and the Leeds Climate Commission – aims to accelerate the development of a pipeline of investor-ready clean energy projects. Local authority frontrunners have generated ideas, developed business models and secured finance for innovative low-carbon projects around the UK. They show that it can be done, and there’s much to learn from them. We have gathered their experiences here.

Financing the transition report Harnessing UK cities’ ambition for clean energy

Financing the transition report Harnessing UK cities’ ambition for clean energy

The ambition of local leaders to facilitate the transition to clean energy is high. But that ambition is stymied by a lack of capacity and capability when it comes to turning that ambition into reality. UK100 teamed up with policy experts, local leaders, developers and financiers to explore ways to solve this problem. Our answer – develop Clean Energy Action Partnerships, so that national government can build an industrial strategy with local leaders, focussed on place.

 

You can read the full report here:

#LoveCleanAir

#LoveCleanAir

This Valentines, UK100 is calling on politicians to put a stop to dirty air by signing up to new powers and funding for local leaders.

 

Our major 14th February Clean Air Summit will be attended by London Mayor Sadiq Khan as well as mayors and council leaders from across England. They are due to be joined by Environment Secretary Michael Gove MP, Health Secretary Matt Hancock MP, and the Chief Executive of the NHS, Simon Stevens.

We’re calling for new legislation and funding to provide powers to elected mayors and local councils to tackle air pollution in a new Clean Air Act, planned for later in the year. Recommendations could include the creation of local clean air zones where the most polluting vehicles will be fined for entering which are being planned in London and Manchester.

Read more in our news story here

Tom Hayes: Plans for Zero Emission Zone in Oxford race ahead in bid to cut emissions

We all have the right to clean air, yet millions of people across the UK are breathing toxic air on a daily basis. A recent report found that outdoor air pollution is linked to 40,000 deaths in the UK each year, and health experts warn that there is no safe level for pollutants. Toxic air affects every one of us, from the time that we are in the womb and through to old age, though some are more vulnerable, including those on the lowest incomes.

Read More

Waseem Zaffar: Cleaning up our air for future generations

Councillor Waseem Zaffar, Cabinet Member for Transport and Environment at Birmingham City Council, reflects on the work the authority is doing to tackle a national public health crisis on a local level

 

 

Turn on the tap at home or in your workplace and you can be sure that what comes out will be safe to drink. We take clean drinking water for granted – though so many others around the world can’t -because we view it as a basic human right rather than a privilege.

Read More

Local leadership on Clean Air

Local leadership on Clean Air

On National Clean Air Day 2018, UK100 gathered local leaders together with metro mayors to deliver a call to the Government to do more to help them tackle dirty air in towns and cities across the country. We also took the time to celebrate the innovative work the UK100 network is doing locally to reduce emissions, bring communities together and get more people out of their cars and onto their bikes or their feet.”