Local path to net zero

Tackling climate change requires local action, and councils are leading the way.

Climate change is not a crisis of the future but of the present. 

2020 was the world’s joint warmest year on record, with temperatures 1.25 Celsius above the pre-industrial average extending to all parts of the globe, including the Arctic.

While the temperature change numbers look small, the impacts are significant. It’s difficult to forget the devastating wildfires in Australia at the beginning of last year and the long-lasting heatwaves in July and August. 

And of course, many parts of the UK have been battered by storms and unprecedented flooding.

These real-life weather events are going to be experienced by more people in more places, more often. Global action to respond and deal with climate change is paramount. 

But it is local action and councils that deal with the challenges on the ground. We only need to look to the response to the COVID-19 pandemic to know that. 

In Paris in 2015, world leaders came together and committed to an historic agreement to tackle climate change and limit the rise of global temperatures to 1.5 C above pre-industrial levels. This is known as the Paris Agreement. 

This year, the UK will be hosting the next United Nations Conference of the Parties (COP26) in Glasgow, from 1-12 November. This provides an opportunity for governments to accelerate progress towards the goal of the Paris agreement and net zero carbon emissions.

It also provides an opportunity to showcase the leading role of councils in tackling climate change. With at least 230 councils declaring a climate emergency, councils are well placed to meet net zero by 2050 in partnership with government, industry and communities. 

Since decarbonisation must happen everywhere – from every sector, industry and business to every place, community and household – it will require a significant generational shift in the everyday activities of our lives, including how we travel, how we live in and power our homes, and even what we eat. 

This can only be achieved by strong local leadership.

The LGA’s work on a ‘Local path to net zero’ seeks to promote local leadership on climate action and  the role of councils as primary delivery partners. 

Focusing on the five campaign areas identified by the Government for COP26 – energy transitions, clean transport, nature-based solutions, finance, and adaptation and resilience – we have planned a programme of activity including webinars, think pieces and videos in the months leading up to COP26. 

We have invited stakeholders, partners, think-tanks and industry experts to share their perspectives on the importance of local action in tackling climate change and the first of these contributions are now on our website. 

We will continue to add resources, including videos of council case studies and ‘talking heads’ with industry experts. You can also find the LGA’s climate change improvement and support programme on our website which offers a range of resources and good practice case studies.

It is now time to translate international and national ambitions for a green industrial revolution into transformative local action – and councils, with their local partners, are leading the way.

We will be featuring think pieces and other contributions to ‘A local path to net zero’ in future editions of first in the run-up to COP26 – see also www.local.gov.uk/local-path-net-zero. You can find out about the LGA’s wider work on climate change, the environment, energy and waste by visiting www.local.gov.uk/climate-environment-and-waste.

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