From charters to energy plans: New Skidmore report calls for policies to help local authorities reach net-zero

The UK’s own net-zero star Chris Skidmore joined with Conservative Mayor, Baron Houchen and the UK100 to launch the Future is Local report on Tuesday (26 September).

The new report is designed to facilitate the transition to net-zero emissions by setting up frameworks and funding to enable local authorities and councils to act and accelerate their own action plans.

The report makes 31 recommendations, grouped into five overarching themes and key recommendations. The headline recommendations include introducing a Local Net Zero Charter to assign ownership to the delivery of action plans and improve partnerships between the UK Government, devolved governments and regional, city and local authorities.

Rt Hon Chris Skidmore OBE MP said: “In too many discussions about the UK’s net-zero commitments, the vital role of local and regional government is overlooked. Against a backdrop of wavering central government support, councils and regions are already leading the way on climate action, with many aiming to deliver net-zero ahead of national targets.

“The Local Mission Zero Network’s first report, The Future Is Local, sets out over thirty recommendations to further the Net Zero Review’s local delivery mission. It’s clear that if central government won’t step up, it should get out of the way and allow local and regional leaders to forge ahead with their positive vision to achieve local net-zero in partnership with communities up and down the country. Unleashing their ambition is the most effective way to harness the economic and regional growth opportunities that net-zero can unlock.”

Earlier this year the UK’s climate watchdog, the Climate Change Committee (CCC), warned that no local councils in England believe their climate plans are fully aligned with UK-wide legally binding net-zero targets.

Only 8% said their plan was ‘mostly aligned’, meaning that more than nine in ten are grappling with significant gaps. The CCC argues that this is to be expected when the councils are not receiving clear signals and practical guidance from the central Government. The CCC’s recent progress report to Parliament concluded that the UK is not on track to achieving its 2050 goal and has strayed further from an affordable, well-managed transition in the past year.

In response, the UK100 report calls for a variety of legislative mechanisms to be introduced to help local authorities.

Local Area Energy Plans should also be introduced across all parts of the UK that facilitates the shift away from fossil fuels and helps households save money on their energy bills. A Net Zero Delivery Framework would also be required to improve collaboration on the implementation of green policies introduced by Central Government.

Funding for net-zero would also need to be improved and ringfenced to support local authorities combat current inflation, which would create long-term certainty and improve public-private investment partnerships moving forward.

The report also calls for an urgent review later this year of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) to ensure that the it is better aligned to support the delivery of net-zero while accounting for nature recovery.

Other notable recommendations listed in the report include developing a Local Net-Zero Data and Reporting Framework to improve and standardise reporting across local authorities.

Ahead of the Spending Review in November, the report calls on the Chancellor to announce the establishment of new Net Zero City Leaps, using the Bristol City Leap template of effective public-private partnership to other cities and regions across the country to spur investments into net-zero.

The NPPF and future planning policy should also commit to ensuring that there is an effective carbon emissions assessment, based on whole life cycle carbon analysis, in order to target emissions reductions, the report added.

Net-Zero no goes

“The Future is Local” follows up on Mission Zero, the UK Government-commissioned independent review of Net Zero delivery, which was overseen by Skidmore. The Skidmore Review, published in March 2023, acts as a comprehensive review of the UK’s approach to its net-zero target for 2050, which was deemed unlawful last year following a legal challenge with Friends of the Earth and ClientEarth.

That report detailed 129 recommendations across key sectors such as the built environment, renewable energy, green finance and nature. Upon releasing the report, Chris Skidmore claimed that ministers needed to grasp the “historic opportunity” opportunity that decarbonisation would bring, however, the Government has since relaxed key green policies in relation to homes and transport.

Just last week UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak confirmed a five-year delay on the ban on new petrol and diesel car sales. This was set for 2030 under Boris Johnson but will now be amended to 2035. This is aligned with dates in the EU and many US states.

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