A local path to net zero

Councils want to work as partners with government, industry and communities to tackle climate change. They are intrinsic to transitioning our places and empowering our communities and businesses to net zero future.

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Public concern around climate change is high. Opinion polling shows significant levels of support for net zero, and the extent to which our way of live is impacted will become more acutely felt as flooding, heat, drought, shortages and economic damage escalate.

Climate action can deliver huge benefits. Alongside safeguarding a habitable future, the transition to net zero helps tackle the rising cost of living, improve our health and our economy. There are big opportunities to shape the green recovery locally, nationally and internationally.

The government’s ambition to reach net zero by 2050 can only be achieved with decarbonisation happening in every place across the country – every household, community and local economy. This requires local leadership.

Over 300 local authorities have declared climate emergencies and are in the process of developing plans to deliver against ambitious targets. Councils can mobilise and join-up community action and pull a wide range of levers to deliver local results that reduces emissions and adapts to the impact of climate change.

As the government’s Net Zero Strategy outlined, councils can influence 80 per cent of emissions from their places, have direct influence over a third of emissions and have direct responsibility for three to five per cent of emissions.

However, this potential is a long way off being realised. We are calling for an approach to redress this over the medium and short term.

The position of councils as place-shapers, convenors of communities and local partners, asset-owners, problem solvers and significant purchasers puts them at the forefront of delivering real, tangible changes in the transition to net zero.

What we are asking the government for:

Mitigation
  • Empower the local planning system to ensure that developers build new homes that are energy efficient and net zero, supporting area wide planning for regional delivery of energy, transport systems and building retrofit
  • Bring forward the £3.8 billion Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund to help the rollout of an ambitious national retrofit programme across all tenures that will create jobs, support local economies, cut fuel bills, and help tackle fuel poverty.
  • Bring forward the implementation of the Future Homes and Future Buildings Standards to ensure that developers do not build to older efficiency standards for longer than necessary.
  • Develop a communication and incentivisation programme with local government to engage with social housing landlords and tenants, private rented sector landlords and tenants and owner occupiers on the need for fabric energy efficiency retrofit and the transition to heat pumps.
  • Support trailblazers by offering the funding and timeframes required to enable local government, the private sector and the third sector to deliver retrofit skills and employment provision aimed at stimulating the local market.
  • Explore pilot place-based solutions – we would like to work with government on what pilots could be established to test transformational place-based low carbon solutions and how these can be scaled up.
Adaptation
  • Back locally developed adaptation pilots to test out different, integrated approaches, providing useful data on the costs and benefits of different approaches, interdependencies and inequalities.
  • Work with local government on renewed and fully funded plans for adaptation.
  • Integrate adaptation into current and forthcoming policies such as Building Regulations and National Planning Policy Framework reviews and, the Heat and Buildings and Net Zero strategies.
  • Empower councils to lead a local approach to flood defence, using their local knowledge to ensure that money is directed towards projects that best reflect local needs, including protecting key roads and bridges to keep local residents and businesses moving.
  • Devolve funding for flood defences to local areas and sit within a new national framework for addressing the climate emergency.
Transport
  • Assist councils in their ambition to implement and expand electric vehicle (EV) charging points by addressing the lack of clarity and understanding of councils’ role and the insufficient financial support to develop local strategies. There needs to be greater infrastructure funding flexibility to enable councils to provide a range of solutions.
  • Move towards consolidation and long-term funding certainty with local freedoms, in line with changes to guidance on Local Transport Plans.
  • Divert a portion of £27bn strategic road building to support local roads and sustainable transport investment.
  • Provide consistent backing and messaging to support local authority decisions on reallocating road space.
  • Broaden investments and subsidies to reduce the over-reliance on transition to electric vehicles and incentivise modal shift to public, shared and active forms of travel. 
Financing Net Zero
  • Ensure that the National Infrastructure Bank finances net zero schemes and that capital funding is combined with revenue funding to ensure that councils have the capacity to deliver.
  • We support the recommendations in the Climate Change Committee's 'Local Authorities and the Sixth Carbon Budget' report. Firstly, to increase funding and support for local authorities to develop skills and capacity to plan and implement climate action across both emissions reduction and climate adaptation in their local areas. Secondly to introduce significant, non-competitive long-term investment and give flexibility to local authorities to blend budgets to deliver multiple co-benefits, as short-term competitive funding for narrowly specified projects with tight bidding times makes it very hard for smaller authorities with less capacity to apply and concentrates funding in certain areas.

Climate change sector support programme

Alongside the majority of councils, the LGA has declared a climate emergency. As part of our sector-led support offer, we offer a wide range of resources to help councils address climate change and environmental sustainability. Visit our climate change hub to learn more.