14 Dec 2021
The government is not addressing the climate and nature emergency with the urgency required, and they’re not giving councils the powers and resources to reach their full potential on climate change and nature protection.
Councils need to raise their voice, alongside others, both for more powers and resources, as well as more national action. They can do this by signing up to the demands of the Blueprint coalition – a unique alliance of local government, environmental NGOs and academics – which has come together to make the case for the UK government to empower local authorities to deliver on climate change, nature, and a green recovery from coronavirus.
It’s also important for councils to work with others locally and demonstrate the barriers to action resulting from inconsistent national policy and lack of resources. Evidence from local authorities is now being taken seriously by the Climate Change Committee and the National Audit Office, which have called for changes to policy and funding from the UK government to support local action. But more councils need to add their voices to ensure that government listens.
Councils should make their voice heard by the UK government and secure increased devolution to the local level and increase democratic control.
What councils should do
Point 50 in our Climate Action Plan for councils suggest councils should:
50. Declare support for the “Blueprint for accelerating climate action and a green recovery at the local level”, produced by Friends of the Earth, local government associations and others, which aims to secure more regulatory powers, fundraising powers and finance to deliver on our aspirations.
- Most councils have now declared a climate emergency and over 80% have a Climate Action Plan. But not all plans are being implemented with the urgency that’s needed. Some local authorities are dragging their feet on actions they could take now, but it’s also a reality that more funding and powers are needed by local governments if national climate change targets are to be met, especially as councils are already dealing with a decade of funding cuts.
- National policy in key areas such as planning is still not fully aligned with climate targets – making it harder for local plans and decision making to insist on zero-carbon development and reject high carbon development. National spending is still funding the wrong kind of infrastructure such as new roads. Often funding for action to tackle climate change is in short term competitive grants when what councils need is long term stable funding – especially to build the links and partnerships needed to build skills and supply chains locally for key activities such as retrofitting housing.
Friends of the Earth with local government organisations and others have set out five priorities where UK government support for local action is needed. Councils should sign up to this to make the case for change more powerful – over 100 have already done so.
As identified above, there are many areas where councils need more finance or powers to deliver to their full potential on climate change and nature protection. These are set out in the “Blueprint for accelerating climate action and a green recovery at the local level”.
There are also many areas where the government itself needs to take action. These powers, finances and actions will not be delivered without a sustained campaign and a unified voice from local government, civil society and local communities. Without campaigning it's the current and future citizens in council areas that will suffer. Campaigning isn’t an optional extra but intrinsic to the council role in addressing climate and nature emergencies.
Read about the importance of local authority action.
Blueprint: The policy and funding changes needed to enable local authorities in England to deliver on climate change.
Read the Blueprint coalition submission on the importance of local authorities in the Net Zero Strategy.
Learn from councils making changes toward a greener future: read the case studies.
How climate friendly is your area? Use Near You to find out.
Committee on Climate Change, 2020, Local authorities and the sixth carbon budget.
National Audit Office report on local government and net-zero.