Blog : covid-19

Why cities and city regions need a resilient recovery

Why cities and city regions need a resilient recovery

As we publish our Resilient Recovery Declaration and research on the retrofit army needed to reach Net Zero, Mayor of Bristol Marvin Rees talks about the need to build resilience into our cities. 

The last decade has seen extreme weather events causing disruption to our economy and loss of life. Last year saw four UK records broken – the highest recorded temperature of 38.7C, the warmest ever winter’s day, the highest December temperature and the mildest February night. We now face dealing with climate related events taking place at the same time as managing the ongoing pandemic. I am writing this at the end of a summer which has seen heatwaves, flooding and continuing outbreaks of Covid-19 across the UK. As we rebuild and reconceptualise our cities and their economies, we need reliable and dependable support from government for the green infrastructure which will help us meet these interlinked challenges.

Local leaders and mayors are used to dealing with and resolving multiple, interdependent challenges balancing prevention and crisis. This has been the case with the response to the generation defining issue of Covid-19, and the pressure it puts on our systems and services. We have been on the frontline of the response to the pandemic, working with public health professionals, business and community sector to shield and heal. We’ve demonstrated our role in responding quickly to the crisis through our strong communities and networks. Operating in the complex urban environment, we see up close and personal the consequences of decisions and policies.  

But we’ve also needed to protect the space needed to think not just about survival, but about the recovery and reinvention of our cities and towns. To plan and build the centres we need for an economy that has changed considerably. Changing the systems so that they are more resilient and behave in a way that doesn’t contribute to the likelihood of shocks. In Core Cities UK and the other city networks that Bristol is part of, clear demands and plans of action are forming.

We want more from the government’s economic planning so that in recovering from the primary risk in the National Risk Register – a pandemic – we also need a commitment to tackle the three climate related risks of the other top five at the same time. It is short-sighted not to, but will also bringing billions of pounds into the economy, harvesting the benefits of low carbon and making resilient places attractive to inward investment. 

A key aspect of infrastructure for future cities to resolve is the delivery of low carbon heat to its residents and businesses, which represents 45% of final UK energy demand. In Bristol we have been installing new heat networks for several years, with a particular focus on the city centre. Bristol’s heat network currently supplies over 1000 properties with low-carbon heat from a variety of sources across the city and continues to expand to new areas across the city. Heat networks can be integrated into wider city urban growth and regeneration plans, helping to address fuel poverty and environmental issues such as air quality.

Across the Core Cities network, we are playing our part to build climate-resilient cities. Each city’s approach is unique, but there are consistent threads running throughout:

  • building an evidence base to understand the risks of climate change
  • a leadership role in setting out the future path for a city, working with local and national partners
  • thematic work tackling specific climate-related risks such as flood risk management or urban heat risks
  • cross-cutting work addressing common aims like protecting vulnerable people, using nature to tackle climate threats or retrofitting buildings

 The UK100 Resilient Recovery Taskforce was established by a group of 24 mayors and local leaders, representing 24 million people across the country. We are calling on the government to commit to a ‘New Deal for Green Skills and Growth’, alongside a major push on infrastructure investment, public transport and retrofitting homes.

We know that cities, and their economies, must become more sustainable and inclusive.

Now is the time for government to lend backing and offer real partnership and investment to support what cities are already doing in response to Covid-19. By front loading the investment in the green infrastructure cities and towns across the country already have lined up, we can secure billions of pounds of investment in quality jobs and invaluable confidence to local partners and their supply chains.

This is what will help us deliver the vital green infrastructure we need to meet carbon neutrality targets and rebuild the economy in a way that avoids future climate shocks and includes people to give them hope and social justice.

Resilient Recovery Declaration

Resilient Recovery Declaration

Declaration of action from local leaders and mayors to the UK government Spending Review consultation for a resilient recovery enabling ambitious local action towards Net Zero

23rd September 2020

The need for an economic recovery package that creates resilience in our communities and reduces carbon emissions has never been greater. The Covid-19 crisis has highlighted the fragility of our economic structures, their exposure to external shocks and the need to support people in our poorest communities. We must seize the opportunity to create healthier, safer, greener and more prosperous communities, building in resilience to climate change through investing in the green economy. Such an approach will enable us to reskill our workforce, enable job creation, create cleaner, healthier, safer places to work and live, and restore the nature upon which we all rely.

As elected leaders of our communities, we are playing an essential role in tackling the current Covid-19 crisis, and we are fulfilling our role in building a resilient recovery from it. Our knowledge and understanding of our communities means that we are well placed to design and deliver solutions that improve health, prosperity and the environment. Adequate UK government investment, ambitious national frameworks and the necessary powers to accelerate local change, would enhance our ability to act in partnership to tackle the threat of climate and to reskill our workforces to set them on a path to a flourishing Net Zero economy.

Together, we can renew our communities by working in partnership with government if action is taken forward across government to:

●     Increase local Net Zero investment by establishing a Net Zero Development Bank to bring together appropriate UK government financing for the transition to Net Zero. The bank should have both an obligation and the capacity to work with Local Energy Hubs and support local authorities to develop place-based Net Zero projects and programmes, leveraging additional private investment to kickstart local energy schemes which are at too early a stage to be attractive to private finance.

●   Invest in renewing the electricity grid to ensure a smart decentralised energy system, enabled by a national framework for local area energy planning. The Core mandate of Ofgem and of devolved nation energy regulators should be expanded to include supporting the delivery of Net Zero emissions, and we support the regulation of future investment in Distribution Network Operators so that a greater role can be given to regional and sub-national plans and ambition.

●   Ensure that the nation’s homes and buildings are retrofitted to be energy efficient by designing and delivering, with local government, a government-led long-term plan to decarbonise buildings and heat that sets out actions and investment needed to enable all existing homes and buildings to be Net Zero carbon by 2050 at the very latest. The plan should at least meet the manifesto commitment of £9bn public investment to deliver Net Zero in our homes and buildings and seeks to crowd in further private investment to meet this goal.

●   Speed up the transition to low and zero emission travel and enable the UK to be a global leader in developing zero emission vehicles including buses and freight. This should include a commitment to providing seamless access to electric vehicle charging infrastructure across the UK. Further support should be provided to citizens and businesses to switch from polluting vehicles to greener ones while also providing long-term investment in public transport networks and in creating built environments that prioritise walking and cycling.

●   Expand local powers to take action on Net Zero by enabling the national Net Zero effort through an enhanced devolution settlement, combining ambitious national strategy with a fresh and fair mix of powers and resources for local & combined authorities; enabling clear & accountable local Net Zero carbon delivery that unleashes the social and economic potential of every community.

Leeds City Council, Bath and North East Somerset, Belfast City Council, Birmingham City Council, Bristol City Council, Cambridge City Council, Cambridgeshire County Council, London Borough of Camden, Cardiff City Council, Cornwall Council, Leicester City Council, Liverpool City Region, Greater London Authority, Greater Manchester Combined Authority, Manchester City Council, Newcastle City Council, North of the Tyne Combined Authority, Nottingham City Council, Oxford City Council, Sheffield City Council, Sheffield City Region Combined Authority, Southampton City Council, West Midlands Combined Authority, West of England Combined Authority

Find out more about the Taskforce or get in touch at info@uk100.org

White vans go green: Army of half a million builders and plumbers needed to reach Net Zero as local leaders urge £100bn green investment to kickstart green recovery

White vans go green: Army of half a million builders and plumbers needed to reach Net Zero as local leaders urge £100bn green investment to kickstart green recovery

●     455,076 jobs could be created in construction and property sectors across Great Britain

●     Cross-party taskforce of 24 Mayors and local leaders calls for £100bn in Spending Review along with 5 point Resilient Recovery Declaration

●     Calls for Government-led plan to retrofit homes and become world leader in low emissions vehicles

●     Net Zero Development Bank would increase private investment in zero carbon economy

RETROFIT ARMY

New research published by UK100, a group of mayors and local government leaders today shows that a “retrofit army” of nearly half a million builders, electricians, plumbers will be needed to meet the Government’s objective of becoming Net Zero by 2050.

The figures are being published as a cross-party taskforce of 24 Mayors and local leaders, representing 24 million people across England have submitted a proposal to the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, to unlock £100bn as part of the Spending Review, which closes today (24 September). The finance should be predominantly met from the private sector with the Treasury pump-priming £5bn via a Net Zero Development Bank.[1]

In total 455,076 jobs could be created or in demand in the construction and property sectors[2]. The construction industry has been one of the hardest hit in the pandemic, with 90% of construction businesses having applied for the furlough scheme, second only to the hospitality sector[3]. In total, over 3 million jobs are expected to be in demand or created as part of a shift to a green economy across a range of sectors.

Essex is the area with the highest number of potential new construction and property jobs – with a total of 12,841 roles likely to be created or in demand. Outside London (64,551 jobs) and the South East (67,467 jobs) the areas with the greatest number of new jobs are the North West (50,380), the East of England (48,427) and Scotland (42,978).

£100BN GREEN INVESTMENT

Analysis conducted by UK100 and Siemens, shows that a £5bn investment by the Government could unlock £100bn of private sector investment toward meeting the Net Zero goals by 2050. It includes £40bn for ‘retrofit’ such as energy saving and efficiency in homes and businesses; £10bn for renewables such as solar, wind and biomass; £30bn for low carbon heating such as district heating networks; £10bn for smart energy systems; and £10bn for low emissions transport such as electric and hydrogen vehicles.[4]

The UK Green Building Council has estimated that to achieve Net Zero carbon by 2050, we will need to improve almost all of the UK’s 29 million homes, meaning we need to retrofit more than 1.8 homes every minute between now and 2050.[5]

The new ‘retrofit army’ would be supported to go green with incentives to switch from diesel and petrol white vans to electric vehicles[6], as well as seamless access to electric vehicle charging infrastructure across the UK. There would also be support to encourage public transport use, walking and cycling.

Although the UK100 jobs data is not time specific, a recent report by the New Economics Foundation which interviewed industry experts found that “a period of three to four years was thought to be required to train up the supply chain to full capacity.”[7] Homes are a major source of climate change: accounting for 15% of emissions in the UK in 2018, primarily from natural gas use for heating and cooking[8].

JOINT DECLARATION AND SPENDING REVIEW SUBMISSION

The joint declaration by the 24 mayors and council leaders says: “The need for an economic recovery package that creates resilience in our communities and reduces carbon emissions has never been greater. The Covid-19 crisis has highlighted the fragility of our economic structures, their exposure to external shocks and the need to support people in our poorest communities. We must seize the opportunity to create healthier, safer, greener and more prosperous communities, building in resilience to climate change through investing in the green economy…Adequate UK government investment, ambitious national frameworks and the necessary powers to accelerate local change, would enhance our ability to act in partnership to tackle the threat of climate and to reskill our workforces to set them on a path to a flourishing Net Zero economy.”[9]

The declaration includes a five point Resilient Recovery Declaration which is being submitted to the Chancellor’s Spending Review:

  1. a long-term government-led plan to retrofit homes across the country, which are some of the leakiest in Europe;
  2. a new duty for Ofgem to support the delivery of Net Zero as part of a renewable, locally planned electricity grid;
  3. creating a Net Zero Development Bank to increase private investment in renewable technologies;
  4. a commitment to providing seamless access to electric vehicle charging infrastructure across the UK; and ensure UK is world leader in developing low emissions vehicles
  5. new powers for mayors and local authorities to deliver Net Zero.

CASE STUDIES – NEW RETROFIT JOBS

A number of new jobs are expected to be created in the construction and property sectors as part of the shift to a green economy. Many of these are outlined in a framework of technical standards for retrofit, known as PAS 2035/2030:2019. These include[10]:

●     Retrofit surveyors and advisers. Surveyors and advisers would provide advice to homeowners on how best to reduce energy waste from their houses, on the financial benefits of a variety of retrofit measures and support available.

●     Retrofit builders and insulation specialists. Builders and labourers will need additional skills and experience of constructing energy efficient homes, as well as installing the latest insulation in existing homes to reduce energy leakage and meet the highest EPC (Energy Performance Certificate) ratings.

●     Retrofit heating specialists. Specialist technicians, who may have worked as gas boiler engineers could install technologies such as ground or air source heat pumps which can convert renewable-sourced electricity into heating and hot water, or biomass boilers which can burn waste timber with low emissions.

●     Retrofit roofers, carpenters and electricians. A range of specialist roles will be envisaged in the retrofit industry covering the design and installation of technologies including solar thermal systems; home battery storage and thermally efficient facades, which create an airtight and insulated shell around an existing property.

●     Retrofit co-ordinators. The Retrofit Co-ordinator has a key role in ensuring that effective standards are maintained such as the Trustmark accreditation[11] and is involved in all work stages to help reduce risks.

QUOTES

Judith Blake, Leader of Leeds City Council and Chair of the UK100 Resilient Recovery Task Force, said: “With the furlough scheme coming to an end, this country now faces both a climate and a jobs emergency—with both requiring urgent action.

“By investing in nearly half a million skilled and secure jobs as part of the Spending Review, the Chancellor could lay the foundation for a resilient and sustainable recovery across the country and ensure that we have the workforce we need to actually build back better and greener. Local authorities are ready to play our part in helping the country meet its legal Net Zero obligations. We will continue to lead the way, in partnership with businesses and the Government.”

Polly Billington, Director of UK100, said: “From Essex to Edinburgh, the move to a greener economy will create thousands of new jobs. By unlocking private sector investment through a Net Zero Development Bank, we can reduce the taxpayer burden and ensure the money is spent prudently by disciplined allocators of capital.”

Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London, said: “I have been clear that a strong economic recovery and a green recovery are not mutually exclusive but one and the same. With green investments in jobs, skills, technology and infrastructure, we can create millions of new jobs, boost the economy, tackle inequality and unleash sustainable growth at the same time as tackling the climate emergency. I encourage the Government to do more to invest in green jobs and skills, and to help us power a recovery that leads London towards becoming a zero-carbon city.”

Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands, said: “There is no hiding from the climate emergency we are facing as a country, and we must do everything we can to tackle this and reach our carbon emission goals. A key part of this will be a green and inclusive recovery from the Coronavirus crisis – one that delivers high quality, well paid jobs in high-tech new green energy sectors. Tackling climate change and providing people good jobs of the future go hand in hand. The UK100 Resilient Recovery Declaration sets out some critical priorities for cutting emissions and securing those vitally important green jobs for the future. That’s why we’re proud to sign-up to this declaration.”

Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester, said: “We need a new economic model to drive recovery that is based on fairness and building back better. This research shows there is an opportunity to generate thousands of new jobs in a green economy by putting local communities in the driving seat. By working in partnership with businesses and leaders across the country, the Government can unlock sustainable growth.”

Marvin Rees, Mayor of Bristol, said: “Front loading green infrastructure spend will give cities and regions the certainty and stability we need to plan for our recovery. It will enable us to line up the local labour and supply chains, supporting inclusive economic growth, as well as delivering on our climate and ecological goals.”

Councillor Sarah Bunting, Belfast City Council’s UK100 Taskforce representative said: “Covid-19 has led to an acceleration of our action to transition to a zero-emissions economy within a generation. It has focused minds, and led to more partnership working across the city to drive jobs-led growth. However, investment from government is needed to ensure projects at scale are brought forward quickly, either through retrofitting of local housing or stimulus for low-emissions transport. Like many cities, Belfast needs to make a step change towards decarbonisation in this decade. This is a profound challenge but offers substantial opportunities for our local economy.”

Cllr Joshua Schumann, Chairman of Environment and Sustainability committee at Cambridgeshire County Council, said: “Covid-19 has brought challenges to many local government responsibilities and activities – protecting and supporting our communities has had to be our primary concern. In addition to the challenges there have also been opportunities that have been identified in how we can recover from the impacts of the pandemic and how the environment could have lasting benefits from new ways of working.

“Cambridgeshire is delighted to be part of the UK100 resilient recovery taskforce and pleased to add its name to the declaration. Green investment will be an essential part of economic recovery and creating a workforce that can deliver that, with the necessary skills and training, is one example of how we will facilitate it.”

ENDS

EDITOR’S NOTES

Members of the UK100 Resilient Recovery Taskforce

  • Leeds (Chair) – Cllr Judith Blake, Leader
  • Bath and North East Somerset – Cllr Dine Romero, Leader
  • Belfast – Grainia Long, Commissioner for Resilience, Belfast City Council
  • Birmingham – Cllr Ian Ward, Leader
  • Bristol – Marvin Rees, Mayor
  • Cambridge – Cllr Lewis Herbert, Leader
  • Cambridgeshire – Cllr Steve Count, Leader
  • Camden – Cllr Georgia Gould, Leader
  • Cardiff – Cllr Huw Thomas, Leader
  • Cornwall – Cllr Edwina Hannaford, Cabinet Member – Climate Change and Neighbourhoods
  • Leicester – Sir Peter Soulsby, Mayor
  • Liverpool City Region – Steve Rotherham, Mayor
  • London – Sadiq Khan, Mayor
  • Greater Manchester – Andy Burnham, Mayor
  • Manchester City – Sir Richard Leese, Leader
  • Newcastle – Cllr Nick Forbes, Leader
  • North of the Tyne – Jamie Driscoll, Mayor
  • Nottingham – Cllr Sally Longford, Deputy Leader
  • Oxford – Cllr Susan Brown, Leader
  • Sheffield – Cllr Julie Dore, Leader
  • Sheffield City Region – Dan Jarvis MBE, Mayor
  • Southampton – Cllr Christopher Hammond, Leader
  • West Midlands Combined Authority – Andy Street, Mayor
  • West of England Combined Authority – Tim Bowles, Mayor

and

  • Professor Andy Gouldson, University of Leeds – Adviser to the Taskforce
  • Polly Billington, Director, UK100 – Taskforce Secretariat

++ FINAL DRAFT ++

RESILIENT RECOVERY TASK FORCE DECLARATION

23rd September 2020

The need for an economic recovery package that creates resilience in our communities and reduces carbon emissions has never been greater. The Covid-19 crisis has highlighted the fragility of our economic structures, their exposure to external shocks and the need to support people in our poorest communities. We must seize the opportunity to create healthier, safer, greener and more prosperous communities, building in resilience to climate change through investing in the green economy. Such an approach will enable us to reskill our workforce, enable job creation, create cleaner, healthier, safer places to work and live, and restore the nature upon which we all rely.

As elected leaders of our communities, we are playing an essential role in tackling the current Covid-19 crisis, and we are fulfilling our role in building a resilient recovery from it. Our knowledge and understanding of our communities means that we are well placed to design and deliver solutions that improve health, prosperity and the environment. Adequate UK government investment, ambitious national frameworks and the necessary powers to accelerate local change, would enhance our ability to act in partnership to tackle the threat of climate and to reskill our workforces to set them on a path to a flourishing Net Zero economy.

Together, we can renew our communities by working in partnership with government if action is taken forward across government to:

●     Increase local Net Zero investment by establishing a Net Zero Development Bank to bring together appropriate UK government financing for the transition to Net Zero. The bank should have both an obligation and the capacity to work with Local Energy Hubs and support local authorities to develop place-based Net Zero projects and programmes, leveraging additional private investment to kickstart local energy schemes which are at too early a stage to be attractive to private finance.

●   Invest in renewing the electricity grid to ensure a smart decentralised energy system, enabled by a national framework for local area energy planning. The Core mandate of Ofgem and of devolved nation energy regulators should be expanded to include supporting the delivery of Net Zero emissions, and we support the regulation of future investment in Distribution Network Operators so that a greater role can be given to regional and sub-national plans and ambition.

●   Ensure that the nation’s homes and buildings are retrofitted to be energy efficient by designing and delivering, with local government, a government-led long-term plan to decarbonise buildings and heat that sets out actions and investment needed to enable all existing homes and buildings to be Net Zero carbon by 2050 at the very latest. The plan should at least meet the manifesto commitment of £9bn public investment to deliver Net Zero in our homes and buildings and seeks to crowd in further private investment to meet this goal.

●   Speed up the transition to low and zero emission travel and enable the UK to be a global leader in developing zero emission vehicles including buses and freight. This should include a commitment to providing seamless access to electric vehicle charging infrastructure across the UK. Further support should be provided to citizens and businesses to switch from polluting vehicles to greener ones while also providing long-term investment in public transport networks and in creating built environments that prioritise walking and cycling.

●   Expand local powers to take action on Net Zero by enabling the national Net Zero effort through an enhanced devolution settlement, combining ambitious national strategy with a fresh and fair mix of powers and resources for local & combined authorities; enabling clear & accountable local Net Zero carbon delivery that unleashes the social and economic potential of every community.

Full data is available at: bit.ly/uk100greenjobs (GB regional and local authority breakdowns available)

Methodology

The calculations draw on the paper ‘Characterising green employment: The impacts of ‘greening’ on workforce composition’ by Alex Bowena, Karlygash Kuralbayevab, Eileen L. Tipoec, in Energy Economics, April 2018. The paper finds x% of jobs in different US sectors have ‘green skills’ and y% require significant changes due to ‘greening’. The calculations assume these proportions apply, sector by sector, in the UK. We apply these proportions to existing jobs using the BRES survey.

Further details: See Robins, N., Gouldson, A., Irwin, W., Sudmant, A. and Rydge, J., Financing inclusive climate action in the UK An investor roadmap for the just transition. Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment. July 2018 and Robins, N., Tickell, S, Irwin, W., and Sudmant, A. Financing climate action with positive social impact. Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment. July 2020.

About UK100

UK100 is a network of highly ambitious local government leaders, who have pledged to secure the future for their communities by shifting to 100% clean energy by 2050. This is not just good for the planet but for the people and communities they serve, be they in villages, towns or cities. Local leaders are working together to create flourishing communities, seizing the opportunities of technology to create jobs and establishing a nationwide project of renewal, focussed on local needs and ambitions.

UK100 is the only network for UK local authorities, urban, suburban and rural, focused on climate and clean energy policy. We connect local leaders to each other, to business and to UK government, enabling them to showcase their achievements, learn from each other and speak collectively to accelerate the transition to clean energy.

We work closely with elected representatives, policy experts and grassroots campaigners to make the clean energy transition a reality. This involves developing solutions to challenges faced by each and all of our local leaders, whatever their geography, history or makeup, so as to influence UK government and building public support for clean energy solutions. www.uk100.org

[1] See Editors Notes and p21 of https://www.uk100.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/UK100_Report.pdf £5bn investment for £100bn return: This is based on the typical development cost range of 10-15% of overall capital costs for large scale district heating projects down to 2-5% for more straightforward energy efficiency projects.

[2] England, Wales and Scotland figures. Detailed figures available here: bit.ly/uk100greenjobs (GB regional and local authority breakdowns available). Data derived from Bowen, A., Kuralbayeva, K. and Tipoe, E.L., 2018. Characterising green employment: The impacts of ‘greening on workforce composition. Energy Economics, 72, pp.263-275. Also see Robins, N., Gouldson, A., Irwin, W., Sudmant, A. and Rydge, J., Financing inclusive climate action in the UK An investor roadmap for the just transition. Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment. July 2018 and Robins, N., Tickell, S, Irwin, W., and Sudmant, A. Financing climate action with positive social impact. Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment. July 2020

[3] https://www.constructionnews.co.uk/financial/constructions-furloughed-staff-down-to-one-in-four-02-07-2020/

[4] See Editors Notes and p21 of https://www.uk100.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/UK100_Report.pdf

[5] https://www.ukgbc.org/news/towns-and-cities-to-work-together-on-home-retrofit-as-calls-for-green-recovery-mount/

[6] https://www.uk100.org/city-leaders-across-country-join-forces-to-call-for-diesel-scrappage-fund-worth-up-to-3500

-to-each-car-and-van-driver/

[7] See p16 https://neweconomics.org/uploads/files/Green-stimulus-for-housing_NEF.pdf

[8] See p12 https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/

attachment_data/file/862887/2018_Final_greenhouse_gas_emissions_statistical_release.pdf

[9] Full text of declaration in Editors Notes

[10] The roles outlined are derived from UK100 research and the 5 roles outlined in PAS 2035/2030:2019

https://www.creds.ac.uk/new-retrofit-standards-new-roles-existing-policy-do-they-all-fit-together/

[11] https://www.trustmark.org.uk/ourservices/pas-2035v

For further information please contact:

UK100
+44 7830 195812
alex@alexbigham.com
UK100.org
Putting the rural voice into climate action

Putting the rural voice into climate action

David Cope, UK100’s Countryside Climate Network Coordinator, spoke at the Rural Service Network’s annual conference Revitalising Rural on Thursday. In this adaption of David’s talk, he spells out why we need to include the rural voice in climate action and highlights some informative examples of councils engaging residents. 

UK100 is the only network for local authority leaders with a focus on net zero. But until recently, our network was predominantly urban. We recognised that we needed to be more inclusive, to support rural authorities that had distinctive challenges and opportunities around climate action, and to ensure that the rural voice was incorporated into our national advocacy campaigns.

That was why we created the Countryside Climate Network. We currently have 23 members from across England, together covering over 40% of the country and making up 20% of UK100’s membership. 

So far, more than 280 local authorities have declared climate emergencies. The ones that are generally finding it easier to act are those that have more devolved power or funding. But others, including many counties, unitarities and districts, are also acting positively. 

This second group is able to do so because they have the political will, public support and determination. We think that building consent and support among local residents is crucial for the success of climate action – it is a key aspect of building the power to act.

Climate concern is high

National polling tells us that concern about climate change is high. Before the pandemic, YouGov polling showed us that a quarter of the public felt that the environment was one of the most important topics facing the country – behind Brexit and health – with 74% concerned about climate change.

The pandemic hasn’t changed this. YouGov reported in July that ‘COVID-19 has not kicked environmental issues into the long grass’, with a quarter of Brits still viewing the environment as one of the most important issues facing the UK.

In spite of these general statements, it is evident that this doesn’t make the implementation of climate friendly policies smooth or simple. The introduction of low traffic neighbourhoods and pop up cycle lanes as a policy response to the need for travel adaptations to Covid-19 have demonstrated that even with a groundswell of enthusiasm for action, this doesn’t mean that everyone has provided their consent and support.

And even though the UK government is changing its position on support for onshore windfarms, there is still nervousness about whether communities will support their development locally.

That’s why we advocate for a high degree of engagement between local politicians and a broad cross-section of the residents and businesses in their areas. Last month we held a webinar on ‘mini publics’ – citizen assemblies and citizen juries – to discuss the pros and cons about their use in building consent and support in local communities around climate action. 

On 10 September, Climate Assembly UK – more than 100 ordinary people representing the diversity of the British public, commissioned by the UK Parliament – presented its report. The Assembly members supported the swift implementation of a variety of policies that the BBC referred to as ‘radical’, including banning gas boilers, frequent flier taxes, swift transition to electric vehicles and reductions in meat and dairy in diets.

But vitally, Assembly members also identified that the policy changes could only happen if there was better education for all on climate action. They highlighted that fairness needed to be an underpinning principle of the transition, and individuals and local areas needed to have freedom of choice. 

To me this highlights that the public are potentially very ready for radical changes, as long as they are part of those changes and they are not imposed on them. The importance of local choice and local solutions stood out for me too. 

The importance of engaging residents in action

Local authorities are well versed in engaging their residents in decision-making. As ambitions around climate action increase, it is ever-more important to involve residents in a discussion about what is acceptable and desirable to them. Here are a few examples from members of our Countryside Climate Network.

In Herne Bay, on the Kent coast, part of Canterbury City Council, planning permission has recently been given for the UK’s first green hydrogen plant. Powered by electricity generated by an offshore windfarm, this plant will produce hydrogen for use by buses, initially in London, but once production increases and new bus fleets are fitted out, it will be used by hydrogen-powered buses in Canterbury too. 

Some local residents had objected to the development on safety grounds – hydrogen being potentially explosive. The Councillor for the ward, Dan Watkins, one of our Countryside Climate Network members, had many conversations with local residents to discuss safety concerns, explain the risk profile and the project’s benefits. This type of engagement is crucial in achieving climate action.

In Cornwall, another one of our members, they recognise that some climate actions could be detrimental to some residents. So they have committed to ensuring no Cornish resident is worse off as a result of climate action. They developed a decision-making ‘wheel’ that balances environmental ambitions with social needs. 

With use of this framework, they have decided to not install fossil fuel heating in any new council-developed housing, have invested in a bike and walking network of trails to link together housing and economic growth areas, and are using central government funding to reduce bus fares across Cornwall. 

And in Cambridgeshire, the county council is working on a project that will replace oil fired central heating with ground and air sourced heating in the entire village of Swaffham Prior. The scheme is being offered to the village, but whether or not residents buy into it is up to them. The project was inspired from community members and this local ownership has been instrumental in building the support for adoption. 

Upcoming research to better understand local views on climate action

For all these reasons, we are about to commission some research into the views of rural residents on specific climate actions – including around transport, heating, energy generation and land management to name a few. This research will dig into what it is about these specific actions that make them easy to commit to, or contentious.

By understanding these issues better, we will be better able to explore ways to engage a broad section of rural society. This will allow local politicians to frame discussions about specific climate actions, equipping them to build consent and support locally. Ultimately, by building this consent and support, their power to act will grow. 

David Cope, Countryside Climate Network Coordinator

If you’d like to join UK100’s Countryside Climate Network, please do get in touch with Coordinator David Cope.

Launching UK100’s Resilient Recovery Taskforce, by Jason Torrance, UK100 Policy Director

Launching UK100’s Resilient Recovery Taskforce, by Jason Torrance, UK100 Policy Director

Early in July, a cross-party coalition of Mayors and council leaders came together as a Resilient Recovery Taskforce, with secretariat provided by UK100, to call on the Chancellor to commit to a ‘New Deal for Green Skills and Growth’ in his forthcoming Spending Review, expected in the Autumn. The opportunity for an economic recovery package that creates resilience in our communities and reduces carbon emissions is more possible now than it has ever been. However, success lies in a renewed partnership between UK Government and Local Governments that looks to the future and commits to large scale investment that reduces our climate emissions and builds back better.    

 

The social distancing and resulting lockdowns put in place to tackle COVID-19 is likely to cause the biggest drop in climate emissions ever recorded. Analysts estimate worldwide carbon pollution will plunge by more this year than the combined reductions seen during the global financial crisis, World War II and the Spanish flu. However, it is the actions that are taken as social distancing restrictions ease that will define our ability to tackle wider global challenges such as climate change and the need to build socially-just economic prosperity. Put simply, the opportunity to accelerate our efforts into developing a low carbon economy is now.

 

The COVID-19 crisis may of course only temporarily cut emissions. As shuttered factories begin to reopen, commuters get back into their cars and flights once again take to the air, little may have changed in the structure of the global economy – and progress towards net-zero will likely be as slow as ever and air pollution may return to city streets. Unless there are concerted efforts by governments, nationally and locally, to ensure this does not happen, our current global tragedy could sow the seeds for the next one. 

 

As we have seen with the global spread of COVID-19, no problem exists in isolation. While the UK was brought to a near standstill at the height of the lockdown, with road travel plummeting by as much as 73%, activity is now returning to near pre COVID-19 levels with car use now at 79% compared with before the COVID-19 outbreak, with vans and lorries at 92% and 97% respectively. 

 

With a COVID-19 vaccine seemingly some way off in the distance, it’s likely that there will continue to be a sharp rise in car travel over time at the expense of public transport so as to maintain social distancing. Now, more than ever, the need for UK Government increased investment in public transport is vital to keep services running.

 

For our wider economy, the post-pandemic outlook remains extremely uncertain, due to the unknown duration and severity of COVID-19 measures and doubts over the shape of the recovery. Analysis by the International Monetary Fund has resulted in them slashing their forecasts for global growth in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and warning of a slump in output this year unparalleled since the Great Depression of the 1930s. 

 

Towns and cities around the world are taking the lead in post-coronavirus planning, with a raft of environmental initiatives being rolled out in places from Bristol to Bogotá to ensure public safety and bolster the actions to tackle the climate emergency. Launching the newly formed Global Mayors COVID-19 Recovery Task Force, as part of the C40 group of cities, the mayor of Milan, said: “Our immediate priority is to protect the health of our residents and overcome the Covid-19 pandemic. However, we must also look towards how we will keep our people safe in the future. How we structure our recovery efforts will define our cities for decades to come.”

 

As the UK Government now begins to plot a course out of lockdown and towards a post COVID-19 new normal, the opportunity must be seized to protect jobs and safeguard the future while paying off debts created by emergency spending on the NHS and household incomes. This means re-evaluating infrastructure investments, such as the planned £28bn UK Government roads programme to ensure the country benefits from a jobs boom from initiatives such as: broadband, batteries, electric cars, home upgrades and infrastructure that enables walking and cycling.

 

Local leaders have played an essential role in tackling the COVID-19 crisis and they have an essential role in shaping what comes next. In fact, resilient recovery cannot be achieved without local leaders and the communities that they represent. Building back better requires a new dynamic partnership between the Government UK and local governments, a partnership that must be seized if we are to deliver Net Zero and renew our economy for the benefit of our environment, everyone and generations to come.  

 

Jason Torrance, Policy Director, UK100

Local Government: a breath of fresh air for public health and wealth, by Geraint Davies MP

Local Government: a breath of fresh air for public health and wealth, by Geraint Davies MP

Coronavirus has made people stop and think about public health like they have never done before, which has galvanised the campaign for Clean Air.

People have enjoyed cleaner air during lockdown. They have recognised the flourishing of nature, appreciated the reduced noise pollution and they have, in part, enjoyed the flexibility that remote working has brought to their lives.

These things should be safe-guarded and encouraged in a new normal and local authorities, with the right support, can use this time to deliver these changes as part of a localised response to coronavirus.

Evidence from universities around the world link air pollution with increased infection and deaths, which means it affects prevalence and should therefore be read alongside R value for avoiding a second peak.

A report published by a cross-party group of MPs that I chair, sets out a series of cross-department and multi-governmental proposals, supported by 90 parliamentarians, to keep air pollution low.

The proposals, based on evidence from scientists, businesses and local authorities include the continuation of home working, the phasing out of wood and coal burning in homes, a scrappage scheme for dirty vehicles, and changes to the Environment Bill which include Air Pollution targets and incorporates indoor air quality so harmful domestic chemicals are banned and planning regulation improved.

Most significantly for local authorities it calls for the roll-out of clean air zones, increased cycle lanes and more frequent public transport services – which will of course need the right central government support.

Having been the Leader of Croydon I oversaw the introduction of the UK’s busiest tram system – a public-private £200m 26km electrified orbital link between Wimbledon, Croydon and Beckenham. I believe similar schemes should be supported across the UK.

Greener planning and building regulations can bring in-built power generation, insulation and ventilation, less need to travel and more public transport with local government procurement boosting demand for electric vehicles on an upgraded charging grid.

These changes will revolutionise public spaces and give a much-needed boost to local economies by increasing footfall.

Further, it will encourage the UK to develop a greener and cleaner infrastructure, which can create jobs and establish a new industry and expertise that can boost our exports.

Polls shows that public support for cleaner air is at an all-time high and people are prepared and willing to change their lifestyles to achieve it. Some businesses, too, have been early to adopt flexible working and encourage public transport usage ahead of the coronavirus hitting, and many more have been forced to follow.

Likewise, local authorities have been proactive responding to air quality and have an opportunity to be more ambitious than ever before, if given the correct support.

Through a local approach people will be empowered to make the changes that will allow them to lead healthier lifestyles, during the next year or so where the threat of Coronavirus lingers and beyond.

Now, the government must embrace the opportunities of the next few months to ensure a green recovery that build Britain back cleaner and greener than ever before.

As ever, local approaches will be different and should be flexible– but they must be unified in their desire to improve air quality, and with-it public health.

 

Geraint Davies, Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Air Pollution

 

To feed into the APPG’s work, join the mailing list or to have the council become an associate member email Geraint.Davies.mp@parliament.uk