Local leaders have called for the Government to give them new powers, including the ability to cut the cost of connecting electric vehicle (EV) charging networks to the grid, to deliver net zero.
At an international climate change summit in Birmingham today (July 13), co-convened by the Mayor of the West Midlands, Andy Street and UK100, the 32 mayors and local leaders signed a joint communiqué arguing for a Net Zero Local Powers Bill to be introduced.
This would allow them to set up strategic energy bodies (or similar mechanisms) to address what the leaders deem "market failures" in energy systems and reduce the "high" costs of connecting electric vehicle charging networks to the grid, and allow them to create a long-term plan and resources for the decarbonisation of new and existing buildings and homes, among other measures.
The 32 signatories include mayors and leaders from major cities and urban areas such as the West Midlands, Glasgow, Cardiff, London, Greater Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds, Bristol, Newcastle as well as rural areas like Cambridgeshire, South Gloucestershire, the West of England and Cornwall.
Their requests come ahead of the Government publishing its long-awaited transport decarbonisation plan.
The Climate Change Committee recently estimated that local authorities can influence around one third of the emissions in their local areas through place shaping and partnerships.
It also accused the Government of being “too slow” in following up its climate commitments with delivery plans, and has said it is “absolutely critical” that the Government publishes its new net zero strategy before COP26, the UN Climate Change Conference which the UK is hosting in Glasgow this November.
Collaborative approach to energy
The communiqué argues that strategic energy bodies would ensure a duty of collaboration between public bodies with responsibilities around waste, transport and planning - like local councils - and the energy infrastructure companies known as ‘distribution network operators’ (DNOs).
The West Midlands has been pioneering a collaborative approach to energy systems, distribution and management which resulted in its ‘Net Zero Pathfinder’ proposals recently submitted to Government. These not only seek new responsibilities, powers and resources to secure wide scale building retrofit and new measures on energy levies but also form the basis of the governance model proposed in the communique.
Andy Street, Mayor of West Midlands, said: “We’re asking ministers to give us the powers and the funding to do more. We want to work hand-in-glove with Government to accelerate the drive to net zero.”
Polly Billington, chief executive officer at the UK100, added: “We need a power shift from central government to local communities to tackle climate change.
“Local leaders are more trusted, more accountable and in the case of the UK100 - more ambitious in accelerating the path to net zero.”
Addressing the international conference, which followed the summit, Alok Sharma, president-designate of COP26, said: "We’re urging all cities and regions to join the Race to Zero - the United Nations campaign to reach net zero by 2050 at the latest.
"I’m proud that cities and councils from all over the United Kingdom have signed up from Newcastle to Nottingham from Cambridge to Cornwall and of course, the West Midlands.”