Headlines: February 1st, 2007



The European Union’s ambitious targets for tackling climate change will work only if the role that local government can play is fully recognised across Europe, according to council leaders in England and Wales. They have reminded the European Commission and the Parliament of the importance of local and regional authorities being included in plans to prevent and ease the effects of climate change.

The reminder came from Ian Mearns, the Local Government Association’s spokesperson on the Environment when he addressed a conference organised as part of EU Sustainable Energy Week. He said Europe could not afford to overlook the fact that local authorities were on the frontline. “Local government is the level that is closest to the people of Europe and the reality is that without their inclusion and buy-in, any environmental policies risk failure,” he told delegates to a Council of European Municipalities and Regions Conference, ‘Save Energy, Save Money, Save the Climate.’

Councils, he said, were central to reducing carbon emissions through their policies on the construction of homes and their own buildings and in educating local people. They also had a vital role to play in adapting to the consequences of climate change. Emergency planning and strengthening flood defences were examples of issues that could be addressed only at a local level.

“It’s now widely recognised that we need to tackle climate change with a real urgency and councils have been quick to grab the bull by the horns. In the UK, nearly 200 councils have signed up to the Nottingham Declaration on Climate Change, which commits them to action on the issue,” he told the conference.

The Commission recently set a target for a fifth of all Europe’s energy to come from renewable sources by 2020 and also called for the liberalisation of the energy market. It is also expected in the next few months to produce a Green Paper on how member states should adapt to the consequences of climate change.