Westminster should get out of the way of local government if it is not willing to “step up” and deliver net zero, campaigners have said.
In a report published on Tuesday, net zero tsar Chris Skidmore and Tees Valley Mayor Lord Houchen called on the Government to introduce a string of measures to help local authorities “forge ahead” on cutting carbon emissions.
The report follows Rishi Sunak’s announcement last week that he would be watering down several climate policies, while still aiming to meet the overall target of reaching net zero by 2050.
Launching the report, Tory MP Mr Skidmore said: “In too many discussions about the UK’s net zero commitments, the vital role of local and regional government is overlooked.
“Against a backdrop of wavering central government support, councils and regions are already leading the way on climate action, with many aiming to deliver net zero ahead of national targets.”
Tuesday’s report made 30 recommendations, including simplifying funding for local net zero initiatives, reviewing the planning system to make sure it is aligned with net zero, and a “Local Net Zero Charter” to agree responsibilities between national and local governments.
Mr Skidmore added: “It’s clear that if central government won’t step up, it should get out of the way and allow local and regional leaders to forge ahead with their positive vision to achieve local net zero in partnership with communities up and down the country.
“Unleashing their ambition is the most effective way to harness the economic and regional growth opportunities that net zero can unlock.”
Christopher Hammond, chief executive of local cross-party climate network UK100, welcomed the report, saying: “With the Prime Minister signalling a watering down of national net zero action, the ambitious local and regional authority-led climate action spotlighted in this report is only becoming more vital.
“Climate action is a responsibility that local government is ready to take on. However, with great responsibility should come great power. Or at least adequate power.
“Yet, at the moment, local and regional authorities are delivering despite a ‘kafkaesque’ net zero regulatory framework and disjointed, short-term, competitive funding.
“Net zero offers so much local and regional economic growth potential.
“To unleash it, Ministers need to heed the recommendations in this report and empower local authorities to lead the way. The future is local.”