Sophie Lethier
Sophie Lethier UK100
Picture of North East England
Our Parliamentary Officer Sophie Lethier explains why the Queen’s Speech debates are real opportunities for MPs to emphasise the role of local government in delivering Net Zero and good, green jobs

Context

The UK’s legal and political commitment to Net Zero is well established. The policy detail, from energy and industry to transport and efficiency, is gradually emerging from government. Some of this will need to be underpinned by legislation.

The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) is clear that we cannot achieve Net Zero without local government. UK100’s members know that, while efforts in pursuit of Net Zero are welcome, the government’s current approach is compromised by an insufficient recognition of the role of local and combined authorities in delivering Net Zero. 

Over half the emissions cuts needed to reach Net Zero require decisions made at the local level. The CCC found that the Sixth Carbon Budget can only be achieved if government, regional agencies and local authorities work seamlessly together. 

UK100 members know that their communities - and the whole country - cannot get to Net Zero without them. Many of the decisions required to get there will be made by local councils, so what they do matters. Empowering local government will help the whole country go further and faster on climate, while creating jobs and opportunities in local communities.

The Queen’s Speech debates are real opportunities for MPs to emphasise the role of local government in delivering Net Zero and good, green jobs.

Insight

Polling commissioned by UK100 reveals that the public most trust local government on green issues with 40 per cent of people agreeing that local authorities are best placed to take action on climate change. The poll also found 63 per cent of people want to see more local green jobs and skills in their areas. Find out more about this research here, which shows just how much public support there is for a locally-led transition to Net Zero. 

Place-based solutions to climate change are urgently needed and resourcing local authorities adequately is a part of this.

Recommendations

  • All new policy and legislation in pursuit of Net Zero need to define a clear role for local government, and offer genuine national coordination across various levels of government, regional bodies and regulators. 
  • A more rigorous, proactive effort is required from the Ministry for Housing, Communities and local government to make the case across Whitehall for the central role of councils and combined authorities in unleashing the benefits of net zero for their communities.  
  • Government needs to devolve more powers and funding to local government to enable a faster, fairer transition to Net Zero across the whole country.

Local government powers 

Local authorities are critical to delivering change at the local level, yet there is limited mention of this role in many of the government’s recent strategies. There is no clear programme setting out national and local actions and requirements for local authorities to act. A framework for delivery of climate targets with local flexibility is needed to enable coherent and effective action.

A fresh approach to powers and resources can deliver the biggest wins, including: 

  • Framework: Consulting with local authorities to ensure that a Net Zero Delivery Framework is included in its Net Zero Strategy. The framework should align and clarify national, sub-national, regional and local delivery roles and areas for collaboration
  • Transport: Providing strategically defined local areas with London-style transport powers.
  • Buildings: A long-term framework of support to enable local and combined authorities to catalyse the transformation of the entire existing building stock to zero carbon through locally-appropriate measures and to deliver genuinely zero carbon new buildings. 
  • Energy infrastructure: Powers to develop a balanced local net zero energy system which combines a mix of large-scale power generation with local decentralised energy systems. 
  • Waste: Alongside initiatives for Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) and Deposit Return Schemes (DRS), piloting powers to reduce residual waste from both domestic and commercial settings.

Power Shift

UK100 recently published the most comprehensive examination of the powers local authorities have and need to deliver climate action and Net Zero ever undertaken. You can access it here. We are confident it will provide you with a host of talking points throughout the days of debate following the Queen’s Speech.  

The clear implication is that, while ambition and willingness exist at local and national level, they are not matched by capacity and policy. Local government faces significant barriers in pursuing net zero.

In fact, we have a local government system that is currently structurally incapable of delivering Net Zero. 

We would urge members to raise the following points with ministers:

  • Retain the urgency from the pandemic to build a green recovery.  
  • Change national rules and regulations to enable local councils to do more on climate.
  • Create a framework for delivery of climate targets with local flexibility.
  • Investment in green jobs and schemes at scale, and in delivery at the local level.
  • A consistent message from across government prioritising Net Zero.
  • Better / more appropriate powers for councils on housing, planning, and transport and more capacity to implement them.

Sophie Lethier, Parliamentary Officer sophie.lethier@uk100.org