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Climate Action Within Local Authorities: The Blueprint Coalition Calls for Action Following Scorecards Successes

The need for accelerated local climate action
Blueprint headshot

Peter Moore

Co-chair of the Blueprint Coalition and Head of Climate Strategy at Reading Borough Council

The Blueprint Coalition is an influential group of local government organisations, environmental groups and research institutions. Peter Moore, co-chair of the Blueprint Coalition and Head of Climate Strategy at Reading Borough Council talks about the launch of the Council Climate Scorecards, focusing on what the national government needs to do to support local authorities.

The role of the Blueprint Coalition in advocating for accelerated local climate action:

Councils are starting to admit, some openly and some less so, that they will struggle to hit the climate emergency targets that they set a few years ago. As the Climate Change Committee and many others have spelt out, place-based action is essential to tackle the climate and nature crises, and if this action lags, the UK’s national net zero targets are at risk.

I am co-chair of the Blueprint Coalition, which advocates for national policy that supports accelerated local climate action. The Coalition is made up of partners from local government, environmental groups and research institutions, giving it a unique view on the challenges faced in delivering climate action on the ground. In 2020, together we published a blueprint for government, setting out how central government could accelerate climate action and a green recovery at the local level.

Assessment of councils’ climate action progress:

Last October, Climate Emergency UK, who are a member of the Blueprint Coalition, published their climate action scorecards, assessing the progress of all councils in the UK:  This was a useful contribution to the debate from which one thing was clear: many councils are not where they would wish to be in delivering their climate policy ambitions.

Perhaps not surprisingly given the current funding situation, councils did best on the ‘low hanging fruit’ actions that save money, such as reducing the mowing frequency of verges to encourage biodiversity, switching to or dimming LED streetlights. Addressing more complex challenges such as tackling the negative impacts of traffic and car dependence has proven more challenging for councils requiring multi stakeholder, politically difficult actions that require specialist expertise.

The Scorecards, and the analysis set out in the accompanying report Scorecards Successes: What factors enable climate action within UK local authorities suggest that councils that show leadership by appointing a dedicated climate action portfolio holder and encouraging scrutiny of their progress, tend to score better. But all councils are facing a similar set of challenges – a lack of policy certainty, too many short term competitive funding pots which are not proportionate to the scale of the challenge, and a lack of capacity, particularly skilled capacity, to deliver climate action.

Blueprint Coalition’s call for action:

The Blueprint Coalition has published a set of manifesto asks ahead of the general election. Firstly, we call for a clear recognition of the role of place in delivering climate action with adequate funding and support. Secondly, a commitment to a genuine partnership with local authority leaders through a more effective Local Net Zero Forum (or replacement). Thirdly, commitment to reform and devolve funding streams and increase flexibility, and finally for all future devolution deals to include ambitious place-based actions to tackle climate change.

We’ve also set out some sector specific priorities. Transport continues to be a challenging policy area for many councils. There are some fantastic examples illustrated by the case studies produced by Ashden and Friends of the Earth such as Leeds City Council’s fleet electrification and work to promote active travel in Hope Valley in rural Derbyshire.

However, councils struggle to make substantial improvements to public transport (our superb municipally-owned Reading Buses being among the notable exceptions!) and rollout of EV charging infrastructure is generally too slow. The Blueprint Coalition is calling for devolution of decision-making on transport and longer term funding including investment in active travel which could yield a £17bn NHS saving over 20 years.

Some councils are doing well with housing retrofit and there are great examples such as North East Derbyshire’s upgrade of hard-to-treat council homes, but here too there are major challenges. Significant effort is spent bidding for short term, competitive funds for which there is no guarantee of success, or that funding will go to the areas with greatest need. The Blueprint Coalition is calling for a national retrofit strategy including further funding devolution, and a plan to close the skills gap which is slowing down delivery of energy efficiency schemes.  

Finally on nature, the Scorecards suggest many councils, particularly district councils, suffer due toa lack of specialist resource. One of the Blueprint Coalition’s manifesto asks is to ensure that local authorities have the capacity and expertise to deliver effective nature recovery at a local level.

Public attitudes and support for climate action:

Blueprint Coalition member the Grantham Institute of Climate Change at Imperial College has just published a public attitudes survey which shows that 64% of respondents believed that the government has done too little on climate change. The same survey demonstrated widespread support for the wider benefits of climate action, particularly warmer homes and improved energy security.

Despite immense funding challenges, councils across the country are innovating, building place-based partnerships and leveraging co-benefits to make funding stretch as far as possible. We’re calling on all political parties to support local government to deliver on their ambitious net zero targets. You can see more details on our manifesto asks here.

More information about the Blueprint Coalition is available here: www.adeptnet.org.uk/blueprintcoalition

To read more about Chamber UK’s work on Conservation and the Environment, click here.

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