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Local Authorities and the Sixth Carbon Budget

1. Outline

Local authorities are increasingly ambitious in their plans to tackle climate change. As of October 2020, over 300 local authorities had declared climate emergencies, and many are now in the process of developing plans to deliver against ambitious Net Zero targets. Local authorities have a range of existing levers that can be used to deliver local action that reduces emissions and prepares local areas to a changing climate.

However these levers alone are unlikely to be sufficient to deliver local authorities’ Net Zero ambitions, due to gaps in powers, policy and funding barriers, and a lack of capacity and skills at a local level. Additionally, without some level of coordination from Government, the UK risks pursuing a fragmented strategy towards Net Zero.

Alongside our work on the Sixth Carbon Budget, the Climate Change Committee (CCC) are publishing an accompanying report on the role of local authorities in delivering the UK’s Net Zero ambition. The report aims to provide a framework for aligning climate action at the local level with the CCC’s pathways for the UK, as well as recommendations for local, regional and national Governments aiming to remove barriers to delivering local climate action in the UK.

2. Key recommendations

  • The UK Government and local authorities share a common goal to deliver Net Zero.
  • The Sixth Carbon Budget can only be achieved if Government, regional agencies and local authorities work seamlessly together.
  • More than half of the emissions cuts needed rely on people and businesses taking up low-carbon solutions – decisions that are made at a local and individual level. Many of these decisions depend on having supporting infrastructure and systems in place. Local authorities have powers or influence over roughly a third of emissions in their local areas.
  • Top-down policies go some way to delivering change, but can achieve a far greater impact if they are focused through local knowledge and networks.
  • Four key things are needed to achieve this vision of collaborative delivery:
    • Framework: An agreed framework for delivery for Net Zero incorporating local and national climate action
    • Financing: Appropriate long-term financing to support local authorities in delivering Net Zero
    • Flexibility: Local operational flexibility around how local areas address climate change
    • Facilitation: coherent policy and powers for the facilitation of delivery.