UK100 explains why local authorities are best placed to deal with environmental issues.
Local authorities across the country have shown bold leadership in setting Net Zero goals that are decades ahead of national law, but sustainable delivery can only happen if government relinquishes its powers and responsibilities. finances.
Councils have a crucial role to play in the fight against climate change and the improvement of air quality, as organizers and designers of places, with an influence on local planning, transport, waste and housing. Local leaders are rooted in their communities and understand local needs and opportunities. This places them in a unique position to ensure a local transition to Net Zero that engages and coordinates with local businesses, public institutions and residents and brings jobs and industries to their communities. Local authorities can have a strong influence on emissions, research shows that a third of all UK emissions depend on sectors influenced by local government policies or partnerships.
“Many of the urgent changes and necessary decisions have a strong local dimension. Decarbonizing buildings, transport, waste and industry, reducing emissions from agriculture and storing more carbon through land use and forestry depend on local delivery ‘- Lord Deben, Climate Change Committee
There is a growing consensus, even after COP26, that global declarations must be supported by local implementation. The Climate Change Commission considers action by local authorities essential to achieve our climate goals, as local leaders have a key role in bringing in the actions people need to make low carbon choices. , such as the construction of cycle paths and bus lanes and the increase in the number of bus routes and services to allow good choice when traveling.
An Ipsos Mori poll commissioned by UK100 found that 40% of people think their local council is best placed to tackle climate change in their area, compared to 30% who believe it is the responsibility of the government and 19% think that it’s up to the individual. 1 62% of respondents believe that more investment is needed to enable safe walking and cycling, and 76% believe that the transition to a green economy offers opportunities for people who have lost their jobs due to pandemic. 2 climate change and air pollution have many social and economic benefits for local communities. Renovating social housing reduces fuel poverty, cleaner air improves people’s health and improving public transport networks increases mobility for people without access to a car, improving access to work, friends and family. family.
The solutions to tackle climate change are largely the same as those required to improve air quality, including the transition from gasoline and diesel cars to electric vehicles, public transport, walking and cycling. . Analysis by DEFRA’s Air Quality Expert Panel found that achieving zero net emissions would likely lead to a significant improvement in air quality.
Local authorities have a legal obligation to improve the health of their local people and air pollution is a public health emergency requiring urgent action. Poisonous air is linked to one in nineteen deaths in the UK, including the deaths of children like Ella Adoo-Kissi-Debrah. Research has shown that air pollution can damage every organ in our body, including an increased risk of heart and lung disease, diabetes, and dementia, as well as negatively impacting children’s development, including decreased cognition and the birth of babies with lung problems.
Latest IPCC report highlights that unless the global community halves its emissions by 2030 and achieves net zero emissions by 2050, we will experience increasingly extreme heatwaves and droughts. , flooding from rising sea levels, extreme rainfall and severe crop failures. Climate impacts are already being felt by communities across the UK, with flooding in the past year damaging more than 1,000 properties. Local authorities should consider both mitigation and adaptation measures to respond to escalating climate impacts.
CBI research shows that if the UK adheres to air quality guidelines set by the World Health Organization (WHO), the economy could benefit from £ 1.6 billion a year in reducing premature death, sick leave and reduced productivity due to air pollution.
What’s more, research has shown that investing in climate action at the local level could create more than 800,000 green jobs across the UK by 2030, growing to 1.38 million jobs by 2050. On average, 12.7 jobs are created for every £ 1 million invested in sustainable transport. infrastructure – more than twelve times the average number of jobs created by investing the same amount in road construction projects.
Action by local authorities to encourage the use of public and active transport also helps reduce congestion, which has significant economic benefits. A bus carrying 48 passengers at 30 mph requires 35m of road to maintain a safe distance from the vehicle in front, while the same passengers in individual cars require 1.4 km of road. In contrast, expanding roads to reduce congestion has been shown to fail by inducing demand – by increasing the net distance traveled by car. Reallocating local authority spending from extending roads to improving public and active transport reduces the need for more road space, improves air quality and reduces emissions.
While the rational argument can be made, public policy often comes up against the cold and tonic shower of human emotions. Overcoming our instinctive personal attachment to our cars and changing our ingrained behaviors will require the boldest policy, smart delivery, and a solid understanding of human behavior. A “build and they will come” mentality has had limited and unsupported effects.
Members of UK100, a network of local government leaders committed to improving air quality and achieving Net Zero by 2045 or before, are taking ambitious action. Camden Council adopted the WHO Air Quality Standards and designed an Air Quality Action Plan to achieve these goals by holding discussions with residents, public institutions and local businesses. The council’s Clean Air for Camden campaign provides resources for residents on what they can do to improve the air quality around their homes, workplaces and schools.
York City Council recently introduced a Clean Air Zone, causing all diesel and gasoline buses running through the city center to be replaced with electric or low-emission models, made possible through grant applications from the DfT and of DEFRA. The introduction of a very low emission zone in London reduced roadside nitrogen dioxide pollution by a third and reduced carbon emissions by focusing on active and public transport. Oxford City Council is working with Oxfordshire County Council to implement a zero emission zone on a number of its streets.
Local leaders have a key role to play in empowering residents and local businesses to make low-carbon decisions. The Bath and NE Somerset Council Energy Service provides residents with expert advice on heating, insulation and renewables, giving people the reliable information they need to make low-carbon choices. Bristol City Council has launched City Leap – a public-private partnership offering to provide low-carbon energy infrastructure throughout the city. Portsmouth City Council’s Switched On service offers their residents a number of ways to save energy, money and carbon.
The UK100 network offers its members the opportunity to share best practices with other local authorities on climate and clean air policies and to have a collective voice to express common challenges and proposals to the UK government. To find out more or to join the network, email [email protected] or visit the UK100 website.