Green Day could have been Tré Cool but a lack of local leadership risks leaving the UK a Net Zero “Basket Case”

Green Day could have been Tré Cool but a lack of local leadership risks leaving the UK a Net Zero “Basket Case”

Responding to the Government’s initial announcements on so-called “Green Day”, the UK100 cross-party network of local authorities says they fall short of embracing the vital role of local authorities and risk the UK squandering its Net Zero leadership and ending up as a climate ‘Basket Case’ — especially as the US and EU continue to race ahead.

Highlighting that the UK was the first major economy to sign Net Zero into law and the country under whose presidency the COP26 Glasgow Climate Pact explicitly recognised the crucial role local leaders play in climate action, UK100’s Interim Chief Executive, Jason Torrance, said: “On ’Green Day’ we hoped to see a plan for Net Zero delivery that understands, as the Government’s Independent Mission Zero report did, that local authorities are the key to achieving Net Zero in the UK. Our hopes, however, have been dashed on the ‘Boulevard of Broken Dreams.’ Today’s announcements fall far short of unlocking the ambition and ability within local government to go further and faster in delivering Net Zero.

“However positive the promise to explore the simplification of local Net Zero funding, without key policy shifts on local powers, funding and energy planning there is still a painful disconnect between world-leading promises and local delivery that risks the UK becoming a ‘Walking Contradiction’ of words without action.”

Detailing the network’s input into the Mission Zero report, which echoed several long-standing UK100 recommendations, Jason Torrance explains the “three key tests” against which he believes ‘Green Day’ should be judged; planning and energy, local powers and funding. Jason said: “UK100 was pleased to work alongside Chris Skidmore MP on Mission Zero, which established a broad cross-party, sector-wide consensus on a vision of Net Zero in the UK that maximises the economic and wider social benefits — a vision that sees local leaders at the forefront of delivery.”

The Mission Zero report concluded that: “unlocking the ambition of places and communities will deliver the most successful version of net zero”. Jason continued: “To succeed in fulfilling the vision set out in Mission Zero, the Government needs to address the complex and disjointed approach to planning and work with regulators, devolved administrations, local authorities, industry and key stakeholders to streamline the permitting processes to ensure new power generation can come online as soon as possible — with local leaders at the heart of planning local energy systems that harness local generation potential and manage local demand.

“Crucially, the central government should also introduce a statutory duty for local authorities to take account of the UK’s Net Zero targets, based on a clear framework of local roles and responsibilities. UK100 has already developed a Local-National Net Zero Delivery Framework to demonstrate how the partnership could work. And we have long called for the Net Zero Strategy to include a National Routemap and a Framework for Local Delivery of Net Zero. We need to see it put into action. And that means introducing a Local Net Zero Powers Bill and, as Mission Zero argues, establishing an Office for Net Zero Delivery.

“Extra local powers require appropriate funding — especially when local authorities are more stretched than ever in a cost of living crisis. It’s welcome that the Government plans to ‘explore the simplification of funding’ but we need urgent action, not warm words without detail. This should include consolidating different funding pots, reducing competitive bidding processes, giving longer lead-in times where bidding remains and providing funding over the medium and long — rather than the short-term. Research has shown that local authorities have spent between £27m and £63m since 2019 on applying for competitive funding pots — that’s money that can’t be spent on delivery. This needs to change urgently — as recognised by Michael Gove and Mission Zero.”

Jason concluded: “Whatever positives there are to take away from Green Day, it’s hard to see beyond the fact the government has failed to heed the ‘Warning‘ that overlooking the vital role of local government will mean the UK can’t deliver against its Net Zero ambitions.”

Header image ©Dzmitry/AdobeStock

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