The role of local government

Local authorities account for a small proportion of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions but according to the Committee on Climate Change, they have a direct or indirect influence over some 40% of them. There is therefore a crucial role for local government to play in helping the UK meet its obligations under the Climate Change Act 2008 and the Paris Climate Change Treaty.

The Committee on Climate Change published a report in 2012 that outlined the context for the role of local government in tackling climate change and urged the setting of ambitious, but realistic targets. Based on this report, Malvern Hills District Council’s role in tackling climate change can be summarised into six principles:

  • Leadership – inspiring and encouraging others to take action
  • Reducing emissions from Malvern Hills District Council’s own operations
  • Enabling – creating the policy and planning environment to support the creation of infrastructure and innovation needed to help tackle climate change
  • Service provision (planning, waste transport etc)
  • Partnership – working with other stakeholders to deliver schemes jointly, recognising Malvern Hills District Council does not have all the answers
  • Mitigation – implementing measures to help communities build resilience to the current and future impacts of climate change

However, while there is much local government can do and has influence over, it must be stressed that significant government intervention is going to be crucial to meeting our own local targets. This will not only require certain national policy decisions but also further funding for programmes such as retrofitting of homes and changes to national planning policy to encourage low carbon or carbon neutral development.

The Local Government Association has reinforced this point by warning in September 2019 without further powers, and sustainable and simplified funding streams, councils would struggle to support the UK’s ambition of becoming carbon neutral by 2050.