Councils are leading on a whole range of climate projects and initiatives.
On 5 June, the UK and beyond will be celebrating World Environment Day – an annual United Nations initiative that has been encouraging awareness and action on protecting the environment since 1974.
This year, the day will be used to raise global awareness on restoring our planet’s ecosystems. You may be thinking about the Amazon rainforest or the Himalayas – or our oceans’ coral reefs.
But ecosystems are also much closer to home. Nature is all around us, and I for one have grown a much stronger appreciation for the parks and woodlands on my doorstep – and even my garden – over the past year of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ecosystems and the environment are local; they are implicated in the things we buy, the places we go, the food we eat and the clothes we wear.
The environment is also personal. It’s encouraging that the benefits of the environment to our health and wellbeing have become increasingly recognised – and that is why, on World Environment Day, we are shining a light on local environmental projects by councils and communities.
There are a whole range of climate projects and activities that councils are leading, alongside their residents and businesses. We want to take this opportunity to highlight some of these, and provide examples of the excellent environment work happening locally.
For example, the Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames undertook a project to restore the Berrylands Nature Reserve, a local space rich with wildlife, woodland and a mosaic of habitats. It is looked after by local volunteers.
At my own council in Swindon, we launched a solar offset scheme at the Chapel Farm solar site in April 2020. Not only does it provide clean electricity to nearby homes, but it was also part-financed by the local community, with residents receiving a financial return on their investment.
Leeds City Council has undertaken an innovative project to tackle flooding. The major river Aire that flows through the centre of Leeds can cause large-scale flooding and the council delivered one of the largest flood-alleviation schemes using new technology – a moveable weir – to protect the city.
Finally, the UK’s first zero-emissions zone was created by Oxford City Council to tackle high levels of air pollution. Only vehicles with zero emissions are allowed into the zone free of charge. The council is also working with local businesses and traders to switch their modes of transport to zero emissions by introducing electric cargo bikes for deliveries.
The LGA has worked with these councils to create short films that tell us more about their projects. This is part of our ‘Local path to net zero’ series, which seeks to promote and showcase local climate action in the lead up to COP26, the UN Climate Change Conference taking place in Glasgow in November. Please visit the LGA’s Net Zero webpage to view the series and films.