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Local councils need more power and funding to help drive decarbonisation

A number of councils have committed to green energy projects recently, such as the City of Oxford which is part of Project LEO.Image: Abdulhakeem Samae (Pixabay).

A number of councils have committed to green energy projects recently, such as the City of Oxford which is part of Project LEO.Image: Abdulhakeem Samae (Pixabay).

More must be done by the government to help local councils to decarbonise in the UK, Friends of the Earth has said.

Pointing to a new survey from the BBC, the charity has said that while nearly nine out of 10 councils have declared a climate emergency, more than one-third still support policies that will increase emissions.

These local authorities are often left unable to meet their ambitious targets as well as the UK wide goals set by the prime minister due to a lack of proper funding, power and resources from central government.

Friends of the Earth has thus called on the government to commit to a legal requirement to make it absolutely clear that local authorities have to take UK climate targets into account when considering planning applications, and allow them to reduce developments on the basis of increasing carbon emissions.

Additionally it should set out a clear role for local authorities in its Net Zero Strategy and back this up with long-term funding for important climate solutions such as retrofitting houses. Finally it should scrap its £27 billion roads programme, the charity noted.

The call follows a report from REN21 in March, that found one billion people in globally now live in a city with a renewable energy target or policy with local governments keen to utilise the technology following 796 cities announcing net zero commitments and 1,852 city governments declaring a climate emergency.

Many local authorities in the UK have announced projects utilise renewable energy technologies in recent months, such as the ongoing Project Local Energy Oxfordshire, which brings together Oxford City and Oxfordshire County Councils and numerous low-carbon technology companies to develop a smart grid based on the rollout of green technologies that can then be used in a flexibility market.

Elsewhere, the City of Edinburgh Council signed a strategic partnership with SP Energy Networks to maximise the benefit of grid investment and enable Edinburgh to be a net zero city by 2030. Aberdeen City Council in April partnered SMS to rollout solar PV, battery storage and heat pumps across homes as part of its strategy to decarbonise social housing.

Friends of the Earth campaigner, Sandra Bell, said that councils have a “vital role” to play in confronting the climate emergency, thus while it is important that they show their willingness to act, “they also need the necessary powers, funds and resources to build a greener future.

“Planning reform is an over-looked 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.”

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