Local councils cut climate change plans

24th October 2011


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  • Local government ,
  • Mitigation ,
  • Adaptation

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IEMA

Almost two-thirds of local authorities in the UK are scaling back their efforts to combat climate change, warns the Green Alliance.

Responding to a survey from the environmental think tank, 37% of local councils admitted that climate change was not a priority, with another 28% saying they are dropping their wider environmental approaches to focus on specific areas such as reducing emissions.

According to the Green Alliance, just 35% of local authorities remain committed to their climate change programmes, with many councils scrapping their sustainability function as a result of budget pressures.

“More local authorities are scaling down their efforts on climate change than are increasing it,” says the report’s author Faye Scott. “The government risks undermining its low carbon goals unless it lays out the shared responsibility to tackle climate change.”

The survey forms part of some wider research examining the potential impact of the government’s localism agenda on efforts to mitigate the impacts of a changing climate, looking particularly at the roles of local environment and local nature partnerships, and future neighbourhood plans.

The report, Is localism delivering for climate change?, warns “the foundations for a partnership approach to climate change are weak” and that a lack of resources could damage the potential of any such projects to cut carbon emissions.

However, it concludes the localism agenda could work if central government is clear that climate change needs to be tackled at the local level. While the report doesn’t argue in favour of centrally imposed targets, saying that councils should have as much freedom as possible in their approaches, it says that local authorities should not be allowed to opt out of taking any action.

It also argues that local environment partnerships must be given responsibility for climate change and account for their impacts, and that neighbourhood plans for development should be allowed to set out greater climate change targets than the relevant local plan.

“Localism could result in stronger, more ambitious and creative local action on energy and climate change,” concludes Scott.

The report was published as the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) published the results of strategic environmental assessments. They conclude that the government’s plans to scrap regional development strategies are unlikely to harm the environment.

In launching a consultation asking for feedback on the DCLG’s conclusions, local government minister Bob Neill claims the government is putting an end to unpopular, undemocratic regional plans.

“We are putting planning powers into the hands of local people to take charge of local housing challenges in a way that makes sense for them while protecting the local countryside and green spaces they value,” he says.

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