UK government urged to empower local authorities to hit net-zero emissions

20th August 2021

Friends of the Earth (FoE) has urged the UK government to commit to a “simple set of measures” to help local authorities play a greater role in the country's net-zero transition.

This comes after a recent BBC survey found that over a third of councils are supporting policies that could increase carbon emissions, such as new roads or airport expansion, despite almost 90% of them having declared a climate emergency.

In response, FoE said that the government should set a legal requirement forcing local authorities to take UK climate targets into account when considering planning applications.

This would give councils extra powers to refuse developments which would increase carbon emissions, and insist that all new houses are zero carbon.

The NGO also called for a clear role for local authorities in the government's forthcoming Net Zero Strategy, backed up by long-term funding so that important climate solutions, like retrofitting houses, can be achieved.

Furthermore, the government has been urged to scrap its £27bn roads programme, with funding instead reallocated to make infrastructure for public transport, as well as active travel on foot and bike, more reliable, safe and affordable.

“Councils have a vital role to play in confronting the climate emergency,” said FoE campaigner, Sandra Bell. “It’s really important they show their willingness to act, but they also need the necessary powers, funds and resources to build a greener future.

“Planning reform is an overlooked but crucial element in this. There should be a legal requirement that local authorities have to take UK climate targets into account when considering planning applications.

“We won’t come close to confronting the climate crisis if coal mines and airport expansions are approved and more car-dependent housing is built that fails to meet high energy efficiency standards.”

Last December, the National Audit Office claimed that the most efficient and cost effective way of meeting the UK's climate change targets is to give local leaders a bigger role.

Although 78% of councils have gone beyond declaring a climate emergency by publishing their own climate action plans, FoE said that progress is still hampered by a lack of power and resources.

Providing more funding for councils could also result in co-benefits, according to the NGO, including the creation of quality, long-term green jobs, as well as better health as a result of cleaner air, warmer homes and access to green space, which could have cost savings for the NHS.

“Ministers should put councils at the heart of their climate strategy, so they can fulfil their potential to create the green jobs and healthy, resilient communities needed for the challenges of the 21st century,” Bell added.

Image credit: iStock

Transform articles

COP26 sets path to under 2°C of global warming, CCC says

Limiting global warming to 2°C above pre-industrial levels is possible following COP26, but only if all new mid-century net-zero targets are delivered alongside national 2030 emissions goals.

3rd December 2021

Read more

Neil Howe looks at the environment-related legislation we can expect in 2022 – from the slow progress of the Environment Bill to ambitious new waste management schemes

26th November 2021

Read more

Chris Seekings reports on a side event from the COP26 conference that explored the role of girls’ education in fighting the climate crisis

26th November 2021

Read more

Almost 50 years since the publication of The Limits to Growth, co-author Jørgen Randers tells Chris Seekings what we can expect for the environment and society over the next half century

26th November 2021

Read more

The 15th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity finally began in Kunming last month after two previous attempts were aborted due to COVID-19.

26th November 2021

Read more

The UK public has more trust in local councils to take action on climate change than it does in world leaders, according to research carried out by the Local Government Association (LGA) and published at the COP26 summit.

26th November 2021

Read more

The UK government has provided over £13bn in subsidies to the country's oil and gas industry since the Paris Agreement, analysis of new OECD data has uncovered.

23rd November 2021

Read more

The UK will become the first G20 country to legally force large companies to report their exposure to climate risks using recommendations from the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD).

29th October 2021

Read more

IEMA has raised concerns around a lack of funding for proposals outlined in the UK government's Net Zero Strategy, which was published earlier this week.

21st October 2021

Read more

Media enquires

Looking for an expert to speak at an event or comment on an item in the news?

Find an expert