LONDON, 3 MAY — As Brits head to the polls, the UK's only cross-party network of climate-ambitious local authorities, UK100, reveals the obstacles that local election candidates face in achieving Net Zero goals in their report, "Powers in Place: The Handbook of Local Authority Net Zero Powers."
The report examines the powers available to local authorities ahead of the 2023 local elections and concludes that despite the progress made by some trailblazing local authorities, many are still waiting for the government to provide the necessary resources and powers to fully commit to their Net Zero ambitions.
Net Zero tsar Chris Skidmore MP welcomes the "comprehensive" report, stating that it "outlines a situation where the local powers to achieve Net Zero are theoretical rather than actual." Skidmore's endorsement comes as he announces UK100's appointment to his newly established Local Mission Zero Network, co-chaired with Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen.
The report identifies barriers such as counterintuitive planning rules on housing and onshore wind, business case rules valuing increased traffic flows over air quality and decarbonisation, and the rise of misinformation. To address these challenges, UK100 urges ministers to introduce a Net Zero Local Powers Bill and a Net Zero Delivery Framework, overseen by a Net Zero Delivery Unit, and to end short-term competitive funding pots.
Commenting on the recommendations, Christopher Hammond, Membership & Insights Director at UK100 and former leader of Southampton Council, emphasises the importance of local action in achieving Net Zero:
"From Cornwall to Greater Manchester, local and regional authorities are achieving enormous change despite the regulatory framework and the reluctance to resource them adequately to meet the challenge of climate change. This must change. The UK will not achieve Net Zero on the backs of trailblazers alone. And one of the best places to start is with a Net Zero Local Powers Bill that permits and obliges local authorities to work with their communities to deliver Net Zero."
The proposed Net Zero Local Powers Bill could unlock £137 billion in savings on investments needed to meet the UK's sixth carbon budget, as £58 billion would be needed for a local-first approach, against the £195 billion necessary for a top-down national approach .
UK100 and Chris Skidmore MP will work together through the Local Mission Zero Network to develop the policies that ministers can implement to address the issues raised in Powers in Place. "The future of Net Zero must be local," Chris Skidmore emphasises.
Christopher Hammond concludes:
“UK100 was pleased to work alongside Chris Skidmore MP on Mission Zero, which established a broad cross-party, sector-wide consensus on a vision of Net Zero in the UK that maximises the economic and wider social benefits — a vision that sees local leaders at the forefront of delivery. Powers in Places is the logical next step. And we’re happy again to link up with Chris as part of the Local Mission Zero Network to drive forward policy solutions to the issues raised in the report."