Limited funding and a lack of obligation is stopping local authorities making a crucial contribution to tackling climate change, putting the achievement of national carbon budgets at risk, says the Committee on Climate Change in a new report for DECC.
It highlights how local authorities have a crucial role to play in reducing emissions because of the significant influence they can exert over key emitting sectors including residential and commercial buildings, surface transport and waste. However, most councils are not taking on such a role because there is no requirement for them to set targets and implement measures to reduce emissions in their area, says the CCC.
“The research we’ve done shows local authorities have the potential to significantly impact on the UK’s scale and speed of emissions reductions,” said committee member professor Julia King.
“There is a wealth of good work being done already at local and regional levels but many opportunities remain untapped. It is essential that these opportunities are delivered if we are to meet our national carbon targets.”
The committee, which advises the government on climate policy, wants incentives for local authorities to act to be strengthened and recommends the introduction of a statutory duty for councils to develop and implement carbon plans. It also says that national funding to support local authority action should increase.
“Local authorities need to show leadership and recognise their wider role in supporting local emissions reductions. The government needs to strengthen incentives for action by providing national funding where required and should consider introducing a statutory duty for area-wide, low carbon, plans,” said King.
According to the CCC, local action in three sectors – buildings, transport and waste, which together account for 40% of total UK emissions – could help reduce overall emissions by 20% compared to 2010 levels by 2020.
Among its recommendations for surface transport is the implementation of local sustainable transport plans, more investment in green vehicles and improvements in public transport.
Improving the energy efficiency of existing buildings and ensuring all new builds are highly energy efficient, as well as promoting reduced energy consumption among residents and businesses can significantly reduce emissions from the built environment, says the CCC.
In terms of waste management, the committee says local authorities need to improve collection and recycling, and convert more waste to energy.
The CCC report on local authorities can be downloaded at the committee’s website.