Creating a net-zero future

COP26 provides a real opportunity to recognise local government as a key partner in tackling climate change.

We are living in a time of tremendous global change.

Never before have we faced a health pandemic at such a significant, worldwide scale. 

And never before has it been more urgent to tackle climate change, which threatens all livelihoods and species across our planet. 

The next decade will be critical for ensuring we are on the right track to transition our places, societies and economies to a net-zero carbon future. 

With the UN’s 26th Conference of the Parties (COP26) taking place this November, in Glasgow, there is a momentous opportunity for world leaders to be ambitious and accelerate action to create a net-zero future. 

“Councils are well placed to deliver transformative action on the ground”

But net zero can only be achieved if decarbonisation happens in every place, community and household across the country, and this will require local leadership. 

Councils are well placed to do this and can deliver transformative action on the ground. As the LGA’s ‘A local path to net zero’ sets out, councils have many functions and responsibilities that can support national and international targets.

These include their role as:

  • place shapers – councils have powers or influence over roughly a third of emissions in their local areas
  • purchasers – local government third-party spend in 2019/20 was at least £63 billion
  • delivery agents – LGA polling in February found that 71 per cent of respondents most trusted their local councils, compared with 18 per cent that most trusted government, when it came to local decision-making
  • convenors of partners and communities – as much as 62 per cent of the future reduction in emissions will rely on individual choices and behaviours
  • asset owners – councils are responsible for an estimated 27,000 parks and green spaces.

Councils want to work as partners with government and we have been calling for a national framework for addressing the climate emergency. 

This framework should provide strategic direction and clarity on the roles and responsibilities of national and local government, along with an assessment of public and private finance to ensure councils are resourced and enabled to fulfil their roles.

COP26 provides a real opportunity to recognise local government as a key partner and step up delivery on our climate ambitions. This is why we support the international calls for COP26 to be the year of multi-level action. 

The LGA, along with our domestic and international partners, is asking for formal representation of regional and local government through a dedicated chapter in the official agreement reached at COP26. 

We are also calling for a commitment to recognising and empowering local government in the UK’s updated National Determined Contributions to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. 

As host, the UK Government can champion inclusion and collaboration with local and regional governments, and set a global example.

So we are pleased that there will be a dedicated ‘Cities, regions and built environment day’ at COP26, on 11 November. We are working to ensure that local government has a strong presence on this day and throughout the conference. 

The success of COP26 will be in its legacy. The ambitions and commitments made ahead of and at the conference will have lasting impacts for setting the trajectory of change in the years to come. 

It is crucial that these impacts are positive and enable councils to tackle climate change locally.


Road to COP26

For the first time, the UK will host the UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) from 1-12 November, in partnership with Italy.

The conference will bring together international delegations to agree coordinated action to tackle climate change and make progress towards meeting the international commitments in the Paris Agreement.

The UK has identified four goals to achieve at COP26. These are:

  • mitigation – taking action to limit global warming; for example, curtailing deforestation and investing in renewable energy
  • adaptation – helping communities adapt and prepare for climate change; for example, by investing in resilient infrastructure 
  • finance – investing in clean growth and creating green jobs
  • collaboration – between governments, businesses, and civil society to tackle climate change.

The LGA’s Climate Change Task Group has been providing strategic oversight of our political engagement on net zero in the lead-up to the conference. We will be using COP26 to communicate our key messages that we want multi-level action and to build a partnership between central and local government to tackle climate change.

Find out more information on our key asks of the UK COP26 presidency. Further information about COP26 and the UK’s goals can be found on the UK COP26’s website.

Pass the planet

In the run-up to COP26, the LGA has been showcasing best practice on climate change from councils across England and Wales through our Pass the Planet campaign.

Every region has featured in the campaign, which promotes good practice to support universal learning and shares innovative solutions that councils can scale up or replicate. 

In the North West, Lancashire County Council has invested in low-carbon street lighting, while Cumbria County Council has introduced ‘plastic’ roads, replacing some of the bitumen with recycled waste plastic.

In Yorkshire and the Humber, York City Council has implemented a clean-air zone, while North East Lincolnshire Council is providing free, ‘one-stop shop’ advice and grants to small and medium-sized businesses on renewable energy and reducing carbon emissions.

Middlesbrough Council, in the North East, was the first to trial the use of private, rented e-scooters on its highways.

In Wales, Newport City Council is working with a community organisation to install solar panels with the aim of becoming carbon neutral, and Denbighshire County Council has changed its constitution to ensure all decisions have regard for tackling climate and ecological change.

Three South West councils (Torbay, South Hams, and West Devon) have joined forces to arrange carbon literacy training for officers, senior leaders and councillors.

In the South East, Swale Borough Council has set up a fuel and water home advice service for its most vulnerable residents.

The London Borough of Waltham Forest has retrofitted sheltered housing schemes with a solar-powered system to power lifts and lighting, while Hammersmith and Fulham has developed a ‘climate implications toolkit’ to help officers assess and improve projects, procurements and commissioning.

In the East Midlands, Derbyshire County Council has launched a £2 million green entrepreneurs’ fund, while, in the West Midlands, Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council is working on a low-carbon energy network for its town centre.

In the East of England, Cambridge City Council plans to grow its urban forest, increasing canopy cover from 17 to 19 per cent by the 2050s.

To find out more about these and many other projects, please visit our Pass the Planet webpage.

If you would like to contribute, or if you are doing something innovative locally that you would like to share, please fill out the case study form.


Proud to be

Local services ‘will cost £8 billion more by 2024’