Net-zero innovation

An LGA programme has brought councils and universities together to collaborate on climate change.

Across the UK, more than 200 local authorities have declared a climate emergency. They are leading action at a local level to reduce carbon emissions, increase biodiversity, transition to net zero and, ultimately, improve the quality of life of their residents and the local environment. 

The LGA’s recently launched ‘Pass the planet’ campaign (www.local.gov.uk/pass-the-planet) provides examples of councils undertaking this work, from Swale’s electric vehicle fleet to Sutton’s climate emergency response plan and Colchester’s eCargo bike library.

In April 2020, the LGA launched a pilot ‘net-zero innovation’ programme, in collaboration with University College London (UCL), to help councils come together with universities to achieve their climate commitments. 

By bringing these two partners together, a network of innovative ideas was brought about.

A number of blog posts (see www.local.gov.uk/net-zero-innovation-programme) reflect on the April 2020 pilot, including how to catalyse and develop partnerships. 

For example, a pilot workshop helped consolidate relationships built up over six years between Durham Energy Institute, part of Durham University, and Durham County Council, and supported their joint work on renewable heat.

We then went on to work with 12 partnerships, delivering on a variety of projects, including developing a procurement carbon calculator, skills for housing retrofit, and council carbon decision-making training. 

Our podcast series, ‘Together towards net zero’ (bit.ly/3jhImGK), tracks the progress of our 2020 programme. It reflects on stories from our partnerships and helps to shine a light on how councils and universities can work together to co-create solutions to meet councils’ climate commitments. 

“Sharing experiences and the challenges has been inspiring”

During the programme’s delivery phase, the partnerships have been very successful in facing and overcoming challenges. A huge benefit of running the programme as a network has been allowing the partnerships to work together and use the time allocated to reflect and discuss with one another. 

In our podcast episode ‘The benefits of working in a cohort’ (www.local.gov.uk/together-towards-net-zero-benefits-working-cohort), partners from Worcestershire and Essex note that it can be “quite a solitary endeavour working on sustainability… so the ethos of sharing experiences and the challenges has been really inspiring”. 

The LGA manages a LinkedIn network for university and council staff working on climate change. Anyone is free to join, and we hope this space will be a place to share research and experience, and start a dialogue between council and university partners. 

It also allows for the benefits of the programme to be sustainable, as the current cohort members are a part of it. You can request to join the network by emailing climate@local.gov.uk.

Looking to the future, both the LGA and UCL are committed to developing the Net Zero Innovation Programme. In the coming months, the LGA will be advertising the opportunity to take part in the 2021/22 programme (see below for more information). 

Reflecting on the programme up until now, a key message we have heard from our partnerships has been that collaboration is hard work, but, if you persevere, it can bring endless opportunities. 

On the journey to tackling our climate challenges, it seems only right that we work together to make the biggest impact. Why don’t you and your council see which local partners could help you on the journey to net zero?

For more information about the LGA’s Net Zero Innovation Programme, please visit www.local.gov.uk/net-zero-innovation-programme

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