Tackling the climate emergency

The LGA has been raising councils’ environmental concerns with MPs and Peers.

A legacy of the COVID-19 pandemic must be that we, as a nation, grasp the opportunity to protect and enhance our natural environment, and tackle the climate emergency. 

It is vital that we continue to improve air quality, protect against flooding, and ensure our transport, waste and energy policies are environmentally sustainable.

Local government is already prioritising environmental goals, including leading the way towards achieving net zero carbon, increasingly with ambitious plans to achieve this before the Government’s 2050 target. 

The LGA is supporting councils to deliver on their ambitions for the environment through its sector support work, such as the climate change improvement and support programme.

We are also supporting councils’ work in this area by seeking to influence key legislation and committee inquiries.

For example, the LGA briefed Peers ahead of the Environment Bill’s report stage in the House of Lords in September and several of our proposed amendments were tabled by Peers. These aim to increase local authority access to biodiversity credits and grant local authorities powers to serve biodiversity contravention orders. 

We also stated our intention to work with the Government on the development of guidance to planning authorities on how they must consider local nature recovery strategies.  

The LGA has also given evidence to the Environmental Audit Committee, as part of its inquiry into mapping the path to net zero.

Cllr Rachel Blake, speaking on behalf of the LGA’s Environment, Economy, Housing and Transport Board, talked about the LGA’s proposal to introduce a national framework and climate task force to tackle the climate emergency. 

She explained that responsibility for net zero is dispersed across government departments, adding that a framework was needed to clarify roles and responsibilities, and ensure councils are properly resourced to deliver on national commitments. 

Throughout the session, Cllr Blake emphasised that the role of councils will be critical in achieving net zero and that they stand ready to work in partnership with Government. 

We also briefed MPs ahead of a House of Commons’ debate on reducing plastic waste. 

The debate focused on the environmental impact of plastic pollution, how we can ensure that more plastic waste is recycled, and what steps should be taken to reduce the amount of plastic waste being produced. 

Briefing parliamentarians, we made the case that councils and households are working together to increase recycling rates, with plastic packaging collected by councils doubling over the past decade, and councils ready to take on the challenge of improving recycling rates further. 

Tulip Siddiq MP (Lab, Hampstead and Kilburn) highlighted the financial pressures on councils and the need for adequate resources to be given to local authorities to allow them to deal with plastic waste effectively.

In her contribution, Theresa Villiers MP (Con, Chipping Barnet) agreed with the LGA’s view that the proceeds of ‘extended producer responsibility’ for waste should be used to help councils with waste management. 

This last point brings us back full circle to the Environment Bill, and its welcome commitment for retailers and manufacturers to pay for recycling and disposing of packaging and household waste (extended producer responsibility). This is a crucial stage in shifting the cost away from the taxpayer and back to the polluter.

For the briefings mentioned above and more information on the LGA’s parliamentary work, please visit www.local.gov.uk/parliament.

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