At COP24 I was on a mission to get the concept of Locally Determined Contributions (LDCs) accepted by the UNFCCC. LDCs were to give the ability for Local and Regional Authorities to set their own carbon reduction targets in conjunction with Nationally Determined Contributions which are the responsibility of national governments. This would establish a clearer role for sub-national bodies like Councils and Devolved Administrations in taking action to reduce carbon emissions and help towards achieving the Paris Climate goals. I had some excellent support from staff at the EU Committee of the Regions and Locally and Regionally Determined Contributions were backed by the LGMA, the body that represented Local Government globally.
In the end we didn't get LDC's adopted but we had moved the debate significantly and there was a statement in the final text on how to assess Nationally Determined Contributions that referred to "preparing implementation plans to include domestic institutional arrangements, public participation and engagement with local communities”. In the UK context this basically meant Governments would have to work more closely with Councils on action to address climate change. Then (in the UK at least) nothing happened. Councils still had no official role. the UK Government continued to make statements and policy about climate change with no significant involvement with Local and Regional Authorities.
The Green Party made one of our goals in the run up to COP26 to push Government to set up a joint Central/Local Government Taskforce to put pressure on Government to act. Then at the end of last month the Government produced their Net Zero Strategy and in it there was a statement saying they would establish a,
"Local Net Zero Forum to ensure that there is direct input from local leaders. Chaired by BEIS, the Forum will be cross departmental and bring together national and local government senior officials on a regular basis to discuss policy and delivery options on net zero. The forum will build on our current engagement mechanisms through the representative bodies such as the Local Government Association (LGA), Association for Public Service Excellence (APSE), Core Cities and the Association of Directors of Environment, Economy, Planning & Transport (ADEPT)".
So a Taskforce and a success of sorts!
I first raised the need for National and Local Governments to work more closely together in Paris at COP21 back in 2015 in a side event where I was representing the EU Committee of the Regions. So my own involvement in calling for something like this degree of cooperation is nearly 7 years old. All that really has happened, with the establishment of the Net Zero Forum is that a structure is now in place so we can have discussions, there is still a lot of actual work to do! Though the Forum will be chaired by BEIS the culture of the Forum should be that all participants come to the table as equals and that it is not dominated by national government. We need initiatives for policy change to be able to come forward from local government. After all it will be councils that will have to deliver a lot of the action needed to reduce emissions so why not allow the practitioners the chance to be the policy makers as well?
There is a lot to do. Changes to Building Regulations, a revised National Planning Policy Framework that takes into account climate change, addressing skills gaps and the need for a large scale domestic retrofit programme, all these need serious attention to get us on track towards a genuinely Zero Carbon Strategy for the UK.
Lets get to work!