Local Authorities: Actions Local Authorities can take on
achieving net-zero

More than half of the UK’s principal local authorities have declared a climate emergency in the last eight months. The impact of climate change is already being widely felt and action at a local and regional level is necessary if we are to reduce the risks of climate change.  

Local authorities have a vital part to play in delivering carbon emission reductions, particularly in transport but also in other areas such as buildings, energy, and waste.  Many have set net-zero targets, with some declaring that they will reach net-zero by 2030 (Carbon Trust)

In addition, during the COVID-19 pandemic, the focus needed at a community level has asserted the pivotal role local bodies play during a crisis. The pandemic has also given authorities the chance to think about how businesses can make a green recovery and build back better. 

But how will local authorities start delivering measurable action? This is the challenge facing many of the UK’s local authorities today.

This guide aims to provide local authorities, wanting to tackle climate change and achieve net-zero, with some pointers that can make a real difference. Have you considered these actions in your plan? 

Energy

Promote energy management for local businesses – Investing in an energy management system provides businesses with a way to monitor the energy efficiency measures they have implemented. It also offers them better energy efficiency support alongside the existing services you are delivering. Energy audits give businesses a great starting point but it is interactive and simple tools that will help sustain behaviour change in the local community. Find out more

Back systems that enable remote energy management – In response to the COVID-19 pandemic remote working measures have been implemented and have proven in many cases to be successful. One thing is certain, remote working is here to stay. 

Important to consider when investing in energy management systems and deploying them across businesses is whether or not they enable remote access. Having the same visibility off-site is essential for a business looking to continue controlling overheads impacting the bottom-line and ensuring business operations are maximum efficiency. 

Using the AEMS tool, the user can implement manageable energy targets and monitor the results by comparing whether energy expenditure or productivity improves, from anywhere they are. Time is just as limited working remotely so AEMS automatically processes data so it’s immediately available for review – meaning the focus can stay on managing business operations rather than collecting and analysing energy data. 

Renewable energy – Implementing renewable energy is a vital way of reducing carbon emissions and ensuring there is a secure supply of energy in the local community. Deployment of renewable energy can increase investment in the local economy, increase jobs, provide energy security, and guarantee carbon savings. Local authorities can identify areas suitable for renewable energy, such as wind farms, in the local plan. The demand for renewable energy, such as solar panels and heat pumps, can also be communicated within the local authority private sector developments. 

Transport

A rapid increase in electric cars and vans in rural and urban areas will help substantially reduce carbon emissions. But alone they are not enough. A huge increase in the use of public transport, cycling, and walking routes are required in order to meet emissions targets. In rural areas, there needs to be around a 40% increase in journeys made by these modes, whereas in urban areas around 70-90% (Government Business).

The demand for cycling and walking routes has also been accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic.  According to the Integrated Carbon Observation System Report, London carbon emissions fell to 59% during the lockdown, with fewer car journeys as a major reason for the drop in emissions (ICOS 2020). Scientists from the study suggest it is critical that these low-carbon behaviors are adopted post-pandemic. In order to build back better and maintain this low-carbon behaviour, local bodies should direct investment towards initiatives that reduce car journeys, such as better cycling and walking routes. 

Integrate public transport, cycling, and walking routes – Ensure that quality walking and cycling paths are built and well maintained to encourage community uptake and reduce cars on the road. Another incentive could be to offer car-sharers cheaper car parking spots, which will help have a positive impact on air pollution and reduce road congestion. 

Co-ordinating partnerships

Collectively local authorities are taking action to reduce carbon emissions and work with partners to tackle climate change in their areas. Working in partnership with other organisations may be fundamental to developing the most appropriate action that will work locally. 

In addition, the COVID-19 pandemic has made partnerships even more vital. Local bodies that have long term partnerships are better at cross-coordination and communication enabling them to rapidly respond to unprecedented events. 

Partnering with energy solutions providers – Local authority officers are choosing to partner with energy solution companies in order to manage and reduce costs, reach sustainability goals, and more importantly see a return on investment. There are different solutions available that help to manage energy usage and prompt behaviour change that will result in the efficient use of resourcesFind out more.

Reduce waste

Promote a circular economy – One way to reduce waste in the local community is to adopt circular economy waste policies – for example in waste management plans and contracts, advocating community sharing, and recycling schemes.  

Implement recycling schemes – It is necessary that green infrastructure is in place, to provide local communities with as many recycling services as possible. Waste contractors must also account for future climate change which may impact the design and management of waste sites. 

Buildings and infrastructure

Two-thirds of housing in England and Wales is said to be poorly insulated which could impact net-zero targets being met if they aren’t properly insulated by 2030 (Government Business)

Redesigning housing – To ensure the future impacts of climate change are accounted for, the design and location of any new building or infrastructure needs to be resilient. This may include taking water conservation measures, including heating/cooling and ventilation equipment, and putting sustainable drainage systems in place.  

Modify council-owned properties – Although deemed more expensive, modifying existing council-owned properties such as social housing and schools should be implemented where possible. This may include reducing the amount of gas-fired heating in homes and fitting eco-heating such as installing heat pumps.