The power of place

With the prospect of local government reorganisation and an overhaul of the planning system alongside responsibility for local outbreak management, the public sector can be forgiven for thinking it has a lot on its plate. 

And that’s before we get to economic recovery, leaving the European Union, the Comprehensive Spending Review and, critically, climate change.

To move forward successfully, there must be a focus on the power of place. Give local places the power and resources and the people in them can do extraordinary things. 

There is widespread public acceptance of the importance of tackling climate change, but also a greater recognition of our own back yards. People have been reconnecting with their local places during the pandemic, and I think we are seeing a fundamental shift in how we live and work. 

ADEPT’s work on addressing climate change began some time ago and accelerated with councils’ declarations of climate emergency. We were invited to join the London Environment Directors’ Network (LEDNet) and other organisations in their work with Friends of the Earth and Ashden, a charity working on sustainable energy and development. It published a report in March 2019 on how local authorities could tackle climate change. 

The result has been the publication of  ‘A blueprint for accelerating climate action and a green recovery at the local level’, and the formation of a coalition of local government, research and environmental organisations. 

The blueprint is a comprehensive assessment of the support local authorities need from government to accelerate a green recovery from coronavirus and meet the 2050 target for net zero carbon. 

“People have been reconnecting with their local places during the pandemic, and we are seeing a fundamental shift in how we live and work”

We set out five immediate priorities, from investment to reskilling, retrofit to green infrastructure, and making it easy for people to walk, cycle and work close to home. 

The blueprint goes further still by setting out how this can be done, which is very much in line with the ‘Seven Pathways’ work being done by the UK’s Committee on Climate Change. 

Our seven key themes focus on: growing the zero and low carbon economy; retrofitting homes and buildings; decarbonising transport; delivering zero carbon planning and development; reducing waste and encouraging sustainable consumption; restoring nature for all; and developing local authority systems that are fit for purpose.

Each of these themes is achievable with government support for strong local leadership. Councils are not just mechanisms for local government, they enable huge networks of communities, businesses, people and places, which together have the knowledge and experience to drive forward on climate change and to push for local solutions and innovation to create beautiful places.

The blueprint shows how councils are already delivering on climate change, but also that we need the power and resources to scale up. The experience of responding to coronavirus has demonstrated how we can and do react quickly, but it also exposed the current weaknesses of our systems. 

We are still getting to grips with these and, with more government policies on their way, we will be publishing an updated blueprint in November. 

We want to use the document to engage in active discussion with wider local government partners, including the LGA and, crucially, with government in the run up to COP26. To find out more, please email secretariat@adeptnet.org.uk 

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