NINETY-FOUR PER CENT OF RESIDENTS polled by the Local Government Association (LGA) want to see increased biodiversity in their area, including the planting of trees and protection of green spaces.

The survey for the LGA, which represents councils in England and Wales, found that encouraging people to be more eco-friendly through recycling, less use of  plastic and increasing the use of renewable energy, were also high up on the priority list for residents, with both receiving over 90 per cent.

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

Nine out of ten councils had declared a climate emergency and as part of the great work councils have been doing across the country to protect our environment and reach net zero, many have developed projects to encourage wildflower growth, plant trees and protect biodiversity in their communities.

Some examples of innovating and effective council plans to increase and protect biodiversity include:

  • City of York Council is creating an extensive community woodland on 78 hectares of land to the West of York with the ambition to plant 50,000 trees by 2023 as a nature based solution to climate change mitigation.
  • The Cambridge Canopy Project – part of the Interreg 2 Seas ‘Nature Smart Cities’ project – seeks to grow Cambridge’s urban forest, increasing tree canopy cover from 17 per cent to 19 per cent by the 2050s.
  • The Wiltshire Community Environmental Toolkit has been developed by Wiltshire Council in partnership with Natural England. It allows communities to take the lead in defining and restoring biodiversity in their community by providing a structure for local communities to better understand what they already have in terms of biodiverse habitats, as well as how to plan for developing greater biodiversity and nature-based carbon sequestration in the future.
  • The North Devon Biosphere Reserve is jointly funded by Devon County Council, North Devon Council and Torridge District Council. The Biosphere is launching an ambitious new Nature Recovery Plan to tackle the ecological emergency in northern Devon, aligning with the Government’s 25 Year Environment Plan and the Prime Minister’s pledge for 30 per cent of the UK land to be protected by 2030.
  • Surrey County Council has committed to facilitating the planting of 1.2 million trees – one for every Surrey resident – by 2030.

But the LGA is warning that a skills shortage in ecologists is a worrying barrier to achieving biodiversity net gain goals, with only one third of planning authorities in England having access to their own ‘in house’ ecologist.

Cllr David Renard, environment spokesperson for the LGA, said: “Councils are essential to transforming our places and empowering our communities and businesses to a net zero future and are well-placed to deliver.

“The majority of residents feel it is important for councils to undertake activities to tackle climate change. Many have been implementing changes for a long time now, as they lead the local fight against climate change.In order to support local government in its role of leading places and providing a greener future, government needs to work with councils and business to establish a national framework for addressing the climate emergency, including tackling biodiversity loss.

“Net zero can only be achieved if decarbonisation happens in every place, community and household. Long-term funding for councils would mean they can properly plan a holistic pipeline of activity that meets the needs of their local communities as a whole.”

* The LGA has developed a Renewable Energy Good Practice guide to understand the potential for renewable energy to generate income as well as reducing harmful carbon emissions. Read it here

* More about A local path to net zero here.

* Source: Local Government Association