Government must give councils power to act on climate change, say Lib Dem leaders

September 28, 2021 3:03 PM

World on fire climate change 2Climate change will have a huge impact on all our lives in the years ahead. If we are to stand any chance of limiting the impact, local Councils must have all powers necessary to act.

That's the call made by Liberal Democrat Council Leaders, including Chelmsford's Stephen Robinson, in a letter to the Prime Minister. The Lib Dems have called on the PM to allow local government to be mentioned in any declaration agreed at the international climate summit - COP 26 - in November.

COP26 Letter to the Prime Minister

Dear Prime Minister,

Action on tackling the climate emergency has never been more urgent and we need joined-up government at all levels to achieve our ambitious net zero targets. People all around the country know this and that is why they urged their local Councils to take climate change seriously and act now.

9 in 10 Councils in the country have now declared a climate emergency but they need your help to put words into action at speed. COP 26, the global summit on climate change in Glasgow this November, is the opportunity for you to show the people of the UK and of the world, the climate leadership needed to stop climate breakdown. We call on you, Prime Minister, to announce at COP 26 that you are granting Councils the powers and resources they need to meet net zero targets and be resilient to climate impacts.

The science tells us that what the country has endured during the COVID-19 pandemic will pale in comparison to the economic and social impacts of climate breakdown if we do not take action immediately. The latest IPCC report told us that we have even less time left than we thought and the independent UK Climate Risk Assessment concluded that the UK is "woefully underprepared" for the impacts of climate change that will hit the country; that the gap between climate risks and preparedness has grown over last 5 years.

The UK's net zero targets can only be achieved if Government and local authorities work seamlessly together. More than half of the emissions cuts needed rely on people and businesses taking up low-carbon solutions - solutions around buildings, energy and transport - decisions that are made at a local and individual level.

The National Audit Commission's July report also recognises the importance of local government to net zero but concludes that "there are serious weaknesses in central government's approach to working with local authorities on decarbonisation, stemming from a lack of clarity over local authorities' overall roles, piecemeal funding, and diffuse accountabilities.

Internationally, the Local Governments and Municipal Authorities (LGMA) have called for COP26 to be recognised as the 'Multilevel Action COP' in acknowledgment of the fact that net zero can only be achieved by national and local governments working together at all levels.

We call on you, Prime Minister, to answer the call of people up and down the breadth of our country and of all those councils that have declared a climate emergency; in fact, of local government and municipal authorities across the world.

We call on you to set a global example by devolving the powers and resources needed to those councils that have declared a climate emergency. This commitment to empowering local government should be reflected in the updated National Determined Contributions (NDCs) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) through a shared fiscal and policy framework between central and local government to meet net zero targets and climate adaptation priorities.

Finally, we call on you to provide the global climate leadership needed to make this transformation possible for all countries by including a dedicated chapter for local government in the official Agreement reached at COP 26, recognising the importance of subnational actors in co-designing and delivering climate action and seeking to ensure that local government is politically and financially empowered to meet that ambition.