Headlines: July 5th, 2006

The Environment Secretary David Miliband has called on local authorities to use their energy and innovation to meet environmental challenges and combat climate change. He said climate change had different impact in different localities so local authorities, communities and individuals needed to adapt their lifestyles to its consequences.Mr. Miliband said a lack of environmental awareness and responsibility at whatever level of society was comparable to anti social behaviour. Devolving power to councils, communities and local people would allow them to use their different resources to protect their environment, he said.

Mr. Miliband highlighted three challenges where that required the need to engage local communities – energy, waste and the management of green spaces. “I believe decentralised energy should play a greater role in meeting future energy needs as we move to a low carbon society and the emergence of new technologies is there to make this happen,” he said.

Other countries such as Holland and Denmark, he added, had made progress in this area with power distribution being decentralised with biomass power stations serving a community and individual citizens producing energy through solar or wind power. Mr. Miliband said Britain could see the same transformation in energy production that had taken place in computers with a growing reliance on small machines connected via a network rather than a traditional mainframe.

He urged councils to develop action plans to ensure good intentions turned into reality. Responding to a call from the Local Government Association for councils to charge for collecting household waste other than recycling, he said Sir Michael Lyons’ recommendations on future funding and functions of local government could not be pre-empted but added, “I am personally interested in the idea and I would like to hear from the LGA and local authorities with more detail about the pros and cons of household waste charging, looking at examples from other European countries to determine whether there could be benefits for England.”

He also urged people to get involved in promoting parks and green spaces and said problems of graffiti and litter were often due to poor management and a lack of sense of ownership by the local community.