Environment Secretary David Miliband will today urge local authorities and individuals to use their energy and innovation in meeting environmental challenges to combat climate change - the most significant environmental threat facing the world.

The global nature of climate change impacts in different ways in different localities so this means that local authorities, communities and individuals will need to adapt their lifestyles to the consequences of climate change. And devolving power to local authorities, communities and individuals will allow them to use their different resources to protect what is rightfully their environment.

Mr Miliband stressed that a lack of environmental awareness and responsibility at any level of society was comparable to anti social behaviour. Responsibility for our environment is all our business. Mr Miliband highlighted three environmental challenges where the move to "one plant living" will require us to engage local communities: energy, waste and the management of green spaces.

Mr Miliband said: "I believe decentralised energy should play a greater role in meeting future energy needs as we move to a low carbon society and the emergence of new technologies are there to make this happen. Other countries such as Holland and Denmark have made good progress in this area where we are increasingly seeing more decentralised and distributed power generation - from biomass fuelled combined heat and power stations serving a community, to individual citizens producing energy through solar or wind power and selling their energy back onto the gird. "In the next thirty years we could see the same transformation in energy production that we have seen in computers over the past generation - with a growing reliance on small computers connected via network rather than a traditional mainframe."

Mr Miliband continued: "Councils should develop an action plan to ensure that good intentions turn into reality. The Energy Savings Trust is working on a much improved package of support measures that will outline the milestone activities that should be undertaken, together with a range of options on how to proceed."

Responding to an LGA call for the Government to let councils charge people for collecting household waste other than recycling, Mr Miliband said: "Clearly we cannot pre-empt Sir Michael Lyons' recommendations regarding future funding and functions of local government. Variable waste charging must be looked at in the context of wider changes to local government finance. But I am personally interested in the idea and I would like to hear from the LGA and local authorities with more detail about the pros and cons of household waste charging, looking at examples from other European countries to determine whether there could be benefits for England."

And speaking about the need for people to get involved in promoting parks and green spaces, he said that often problems of graffiti and litter were due to poor management and a lack of sense of ownership by the local community.

"Parks are a massive national resource. The Government is doing a lot to help both councils and communities to improve their green spaces and I believe progress is being made. Sixty nine per cent of authorities now have a green space strategy completed or in development - a rise of 16 per cent from 2000. And 141 local authorities in England have achieved at least one green flag aware for well-managed parks and open spaces.

"My challenge to local councils today is to build on the excellent work they have been doing and help communities step up a gear. Local area agreements provide a mechanism for empowering local people. Cleaner, safer, greener public spaces should be a top target for action," he added.


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