Headlines: December 6th, 2007

The first detailed look at how well local authorities are doing in countering global warming has found that they could help to cut carbon emissions by 150 million tonnes to contribute to the national target of a 32 per cent reduction by 2020. The report, from the Local Government Association’s Independent Climate Change Commission, has found that if all councils made their buildings and vehicles carbon neutral they could save 5.5million tonnes of CO2 every year.

The Commission also believes that if local authorities all over the country work with local people, the private sector and voluntary organisations those reductions could be increased 30 fold. Some councils, it says, are at the frontline in tackling climate change but many have yet to put in place appropriate strategies and plans. The report goes on to warn that if in the next two years some councils fail to respond to climate change central government should legislate to ensure they take action.

The four key areas that councils need to work on, according to the Commission are transport, where they can cut emissions by greening their own fleet, encouraging low emissions from suppliers and promoting walking, cycling and the use of public transport; planning where they should consider maximising energy efficiency when giving planning permission, encourage renewable energy supply and cutting the need for car use; housing, with authorities working alongside energy suppliers to obtain money from the Carbon Emissions Reduction Target; and tendering and re-tendering for new and existing services.

The Chairman of the Independent Climate Change Commission, Professor John Chesshire, said there were outstanding examples of local authority leadership but he added, “Many councils still have to put in place appropriate strategies and action plans. Few have systematically built carbon reduction and resilience to climate change into their organisational DNA. A more consistent, authority-wide, response is now required.”

In his response to the report LGA Chairman Sir Simon Milton said climate change was the most important long-term priority for local government and was a test of the sector’s credibility and reputation.