Under pressure, councils are dropping climate change targets
The Government has cut council budgets and removed their climate change targets. Small surprise, then, that only one in four councils (89 authorities) have now committed to cut emission across their area by 2020. A Friends of the Earth survey of every English local authority found that of those that do have a 2020 target, only 22 have a target equivalent to a 40% cut in emissions by 2020. This is the minimum recommended by the Committee on Climate Change. The average council target through to 2020 was a 30% reduction.
FoE’s David Powell says that the government’s move to scrap local area agreements (LAAs) had contributed to the decline. This is also confirmed by the fact that a majority of the 150 councils that have retained their LAAs had also adopted climate change targets. The voluntary approach to tackling climate change locally was not working. As a result, FoE wants the Coalition to include addressing climate change as a core responsibility for every council in its Energy Bill, currently being debated in Parliament.
This new voluntarist approach to climate change seems to match the voluntary partnership approach to industrial policy emerging through the Local Enterprise Partnerships. LEPs are “locally-owned” partnerships between local authorities and businesses. Local enterprise partnerships will play a central role in determining local economic priorities and “undertaking activities to drive economic growth and the creation of local jobs.”
As FoE commented: “Making our communities cleaner and greener shouldn’t be an after-thought – councils are telling us a legal requirement would help them create jobs and cut costs, through green schemes like insulating homes and improving public transport.” DECC has apparently signed a memorandum of understanding with the local government association this month, “designed to recognise the pivotal role that local councils have in tackling climate change.”