LOCAL AUTHORITIES ARE CRUCIAL to the delivery of the UK’s transition to a cleaner, greener future, say Friends of the Earth and the climate charity Ashden, as they publish a new resource for councils and campaigners.

The two organisations have drawn together a set of case studies which highlight the inspiring work of 40 local authorities. They demonstrate how councils have implemented successful initiatives and solutions in response to pressing local challenges, as well as the need to fulfil their own green targets and counter the climate emergency.

These examples of best practice spanning areas such as nature restoration, energy efficiency and transport, highlight the many ways councils can make a substantial difference where they operate, and overcome some of the barriers that currently frustrate progress on local issues as well as the climate.

Among those examples included are:

  • Warrington Borough Council, which raised funds for a renewable energy project through community municipal bonds that could be purchased for as little as £5 by residents
  • Blaenau Gwent Council, which set up a citizens assembly for just £50,000 to engage the local community in climate decision-making
  • Nottingham City Council, which raised millions for better public transport in the local area through its workplace parking levy
  • North East Derbyshire District Council, which upgraded hundreds of council homes to improve energy efficiency and alleviate fuel poverty simultaneously
  • Wirral Council, which adopted an ambitious tree strategy to plant 210,000 by 2030 and protect existing trees
  • Waltham Forest Council, which has almost fulfilled its target to completely divest its pension funds from fossil fuels within 5 years
  • Derry and Strabane District Council, which is one of the first local authorities in the UK to have created a zero-waste circular economy strategy

Most councils have now declared a climate emergency, and 85 per cent have formulated climate action plans, but the quality and scale of ambition still varies greatly between local authorities. A lack of clarity from central government about the role that councils must play in the transition to a safer planet remains a significant stumbling block for the sector, alongside a shortfall in funding, resources and powers.

However, the role of councils in the coming years will be essential in meeting the UK’s decarbonisation targets. Unless progress at the local level advances swiftly, both local and national ambitions to make the country future fit will fail to be realised.

That Is why Friends of the Earth and Ashden have developed these 40 case studies, so that the wealth of knowledge and learnings that already exist within the sector can be shared widely. It is hoped that all councils can learn from the range of practical insights and examples that have been collected to help them replicate best practice in their areas.

The two organisations also hope to amplify the many benefits that come with action on climate. By making the switch to green, clean infrastructure, local authorities can guarantee warmer homes, better health and hundreds of thousands of long-term jobs in sustainable industries for their residents.

Sandra Bell, campaigner at Friends of the Earth, said: “Whether it’s declaring a climate emergency or producing a plan to curb climate and nature breakdown, most local authorities have shown they want to do more to protect our planet. But in spite of this, we’re still not seeing local progress at the rate needed to halt the worst climate impacts.

“For many councils, it’s a question of funding and powers, both of which are in short supply. But we have identified a huge number of ways that local authorities can accelerate climate progress where they operate. It’s vital that councils use the powers and resources they have now to drive things forward, while lobbying government for more support in the meantime.

“It’s inspiring to see how councils have overcome some of their own local challenges with creative and practical climate solutions, and we hope that others will use these examples as the springboard to further their own climate ambitions.”

Harriet Lamb, CEO of climate charity Ashden, says: “Behind the scenes, local authorities are often doing the climate heavy-lifting, engaging communities and seeking to cut carbon in neighbourhoods. They are trialling new initiatives from raising funds through community bonds to training people in the skills of tomorrow such as for retrofitting homes or planting parklets. These initiatives while being good for the planet also have wider benefits – such as improving health when air quality improves through fewer private cars, or warmer homes and lower fuel bills from insulating homes.”

* Read the full set of case studies here.

* Source: Friends of the Earth