Councils can help cut carbon emissions by 150 million tonnes of C02 a year, contributing to the national target of up to 32% reductions that central government has pledged to achieve by 2020.
The report shows that it if all councils made their buildings and vehicle fleets carbon neutral they would be save 5.5million tonnes every year. By working with their local residents and private, public and voluntary organisations, in every area of the country, councils could help increase these reductions 30 fold.
This is the key finding of a major new report published by the Local Government Association Independent Climate Change Commission.
The Commission's report is the first authoritative investigation into how well councils are doing in their duty to help reduce the effects of, and combat, global warming. The report finds that some councils are at the frontline in tackling climate change but also found that many councils still have to put appropriate strategies and action plans in place.
While recognising that councils face challenging financial conditions with tough decisions about what services they need to invest in, the Commissioners felt that these pressures could not be 'an alibi for inaction'. The report also warned that, if some councils fail to respond to climate change in the next two years, then central government should legislate to ensure they take action to tackle global warming.
The four key areas which local authorities need to work on to make the necessary carbon emission cuts are:
Transport - Councils can reduce transport related emissions by greening their own fleet, encouraging low transport emissions from suppliers and ensuring that local area planning promotes walking, cycling and the use of public transport.
Planning - When granting planning permission for new developments councils should consider maximising energy efficiency, encouraging and increasing renewable energy supply and reducing the need for car use. Planners should make sure the development is resilient to climate change.
Housing - Councils must work with energy suppliers to obtain money from the Carbon Emissions Reduction Target (CERT) to fit loft and wall insulation in homes. Most households could save around 2 tonnes of CO2 a year by fitting such insulation.
Tendering and re-tendering for new and existing services - Every council should work towards 'no increase in carbon' when tendering for new contracts. Each purchase and investment, which totals nearly £70 billion a year, should reduce the carbon impact of the existing or replaced service.
Chairman of the Independent Climate Change Commission, Professor John Chesshire, said:
'There are some outstanding examples of local council leadership and this report reveals that momentum is now building more widely. But many councils still have to put in place appropriate strategies and action plans. Few have systematically built carbon reduction and resilience to climate change into their organisational DNA. A more consistent, authority-wide, response is now required.
'Individual councils cannot opt out of tackling climate change. Councils face challenging financial conditions with tough decisions about what services they can afford to invest in, but these pressures cannot be an alibi for inaction. People are entitled to expect council leadership and action on climate change.
'Over the next two years, there must be a significant and measurable improvement in the local government response to climate change. Within the new Local Area Agreements, and across their roles and operations, local government and its partners must show much a stronger commitment to reducing our carbon footprint and dealing with more extreme weather. A statutory duty should be imposed on those councils that, within the next two years, do not demonstrate this commitment and identify significant progress.'
Responding to the report, Sir Simon Milton, chairman of the Local Government Association , said:
'Climate change is the most important long-term priority for local government. It is a test of the sector's credibility and reputation. It is as important now as public health and sanitation were to our Victorian predecessors.
'The independent Commission's report is of critical importance and significance. Local government can be proud of those authorities that have led the way in tackling climate change, but the challenge now is for the rest of the public sector to step up to the plate. We are entering an era of higher public expectation, where people quite rightly demand a determined approach to reducing climate emissions and making sure our infrastructure is resilient against climate change.'
Brighton & Hove City Council is not one of the authorities yet to demonstrate any commitment to tackling climate change, but there is still much to be done.
The Council has a well established Sustainability Commission, is participating in the Carbon Trust’s Local Authority Carbon Management Programme and is in the process of developing a Supplementary Planning Document for Sustainable Building Design. In addition, the Council is working with the city's Local Strategic Partnership, The 20:20 Community Partnership, to develop a city-wide Climate Change Strategy which engages with residents, businesses and other public sector partners.
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