Local authorities ‘hamstrung’ in delivering net zero

New report Powers in Place notes ‘Kafkaesque’ barriers and calls for new legislation and a delivery framework 

When the government launched its net zero strategy in 2021, it recognised that 82% of UK emissions are ‘within the scope of influence of local authorities.’ A range of solutions, such as transferring to green energy and tech, should make a big impact. But the new report finds that many authorities still lack the resources and powers needed to make effective change.

Road Ahead Closed signage  

The report, Powers in Place – The handbook of local authority Net Zero powers, is published by UK100, which is made up of local leaders who’ve pledged to lead a rapid transition to net zero ahead of the government’s legal target. The report’s authors say that achieving this ambitious aim has been hampered by a series of fundamental problems. 

First, local authorities lack a defined role in delivering net zero. The framework of policy and strategy also does not support or enable local delivery of these aims. 

Even where local authorities have ambitious plans to delivery on net zero, they face conflicting remits of public agencies.  

Funding for such work is scare. Worse, what funding there is inequitably distributed, must often be competed for (meaning other authorities lose out) and is available only in the short term. 

To tackle this, the authors of the new report make three key recommendations: 

  1. The UK government should introduce a Net Zero Local Powers Bill that permits and obliges the relevant levels of local authorities to deliver an effective pathway to Net Zero. 
  2. A Local-National Net Zero Delivery Framework should be co-designed between local authorities and the UK Government, overseen by a National Net Zero Delivery Unit. 
  3. Ministers should end competitive short-term funding and replace it with strategic, needs-based, long-term funding. 

Christopher Hammond, Membership & Insights Director at UK100 and former leader of Southampton Council said: ‘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.’ 

In related news, a new digital platform from Anthesis makes it easier for local authorities to monitor impact data and report on local climate action. 

Photo by Call Me Fred


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