Claire Perry: Clean growth objectives can only be delivered at local level

Climate Minister Claire Perry has said the public sector can be an "incredible agent for change" by leveraging local expertise to find the right solutions to drive the UK's low-carbon economy.

Delivering a keynote speech at The Carbon Trust’s Low Carbon Cities event in London last week, Perry acknowledged the vital role that cities and regions can play in helping to deliver the clean growth pillar of the Government’s Industrial Strategy.

She called on public-sector sustainability professionals to utilise their knowledge on local issues such as energy resources and infrastructure to deliver on the long-term decarbonisation blueprint set out by the Government.

She said: “The Industrial Strategy puts clean growth and local delivery at the heart of it and is the blueprint for how we want to move this great economy forward over the next few decades. As much as we talk about it in Whitehall, the objectives and the success can only be delivered locally. 

“The pillars of the Industrial Strategy is this thing we call place, the areas that we live in and love. And why is that? Because you and the places you represent hold the detailed knowledge of what is going to work. The availability of local energy resources, the skills of your local FE colleges and universities, the potential for local clusters, what your building stock looks like, how you can incorporate low-carbon technologies in transport in your plans going forward.”

‘Agent for change’

Perry cited several examples of leadership at a local level, including Leeds, which has proposed converting its natural gas grid to a hydrogen grid by 2026, and Oxford, which plans to introduce the world’s first zero-emission zone in 2035.

Earlier this week, the UK100 network of Local Government leaders announced that more than 80 UK towns and cities, including Manchester, Birmingham, Newcastle and Glasgow have committed to switch to 100% renewable energy by 2050.

This came on the same day that CDP research found that more than 100 global cities are now sourcing at least 70% of their electricity from renewables sources.

Nevertheless, domestic progress on climate action has been hampered somewhat by financial constraints.

As highlighted by edie’s Sector Insight report launched yesterday (28 Februray), the public sector has been engaged in one of the world’s most extensive programmes of deficit reduction. Across the UK, post-crisis cutbacks have sustainability teams within public-sector bodies to make do with less.

Acknowledging these challenges, Perry insisted that there are still “great opportunities” for cities and regions to learn from best-practice in areas of low-carbon innovation. She urged local authorities to work in collaboration to accelerate the desired change.

Perry continued: “The public sector can be an incredible agent for change. We can be a force for change in the way that businesses and cities consume their energy.

“There are great opportunities to join up across boundaries. Some of our best devolved administrations are putting aside the political conversations and working on this. There is so much innovation happening in this space, a lot of the work is already being doing. It’s a case of building the confidence and getting the right stakeholders in the room.

“This can really leverage in a lot of expertise, whether it is hydrogen heating, recycling or electric vehicle charging in Oxford.”

With austerity still biting, edie’s recent survey of public-sector bodies stressed the importance of successful sustainability project delivery and quicker returns on investment.

When asked what the most significant sustainability investment areas were for their public sector organisation in the 2017/18 financial year, almost two-thirds (62%) of respondents to edie’s survey cited energy efficiency upgrades within their top-three priorities.

This was just one of the findings from edie’s Sector Insight report on public sector sustainability.

edie’s Sector Insight report

The 27-page report, sponsored by Centrica Business Solutions, includes the exclusive results of an in-depth survey of public-sector sustainability professionals, along with key industry facts and stats, inspiring sustainability success stories and best-practice case studies from an array of NHS Trusts, academic institutions and local authorities.

The report goes on to explore three drivers, four challenges and five opportunities facing sustainability professionals in the sector.

This is the fourth in edie’s series of sector insight reports, following similar analysis into the retailmanufacturing and food and drink sectors. Reports investigating the state of sustainability in the construction and hospitality industries will be published over the next two months.

Read the full public sector insight report here.

George Ogleby

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie