It is clear that voters’ attentions are turning to the climate crisis and they are demanding local action (as evidenced at the ballot box). Recent BBC research made interesting reading: almost nine in 10 top tier councils have declared a climate emergency, but almost two thirds said that the pandemic had affected their plans to tackle climate change. With competing demands and budgetary constraints, how can local authorities go further, faster?

Burges Salmon is currently working with a variety of local authorities in tackling their net zero ambitions, which includes greening energy supplies and developing district energy projects under the HNIP programme and there are a number of recurring themes that we have seen raised:

  • Collaboration: Knowledge sharing and communicating best practice will hugely assist all local authorities in successfully implementing meaningful change. We have seen larger local authorities really championing the sharing of resources and models, including leading on the development of frameworks. Whilst each local authority will have its own drivers, governance models and budgetary considerations, further sharing of resources, particularly with smaller authorities that may not have dedicated internal resource, could have a huge impact;
  • Social Value: While budget allocation is a notoriously difficult process (and, as evidenced by the BBC research, even more so as a result of the pandemic), net zero projects can provide ancillary benefits for local communities with cash injection into local economies and the creation of new jobs, as well as decarbonisation and the potential health and social benefits that can bring. In our experience, Councils, in procuring net zero projects, are also looking to these other benefits – particularly in light of the requirements of the Social Value Act;
  • Potential Projects: Local authorities are considering a wide range of potential projects: this might involve the transport network, retro-fitting developments, decarbonising heat networks and zero carbon housing developments, production of renewable energy and tackling fuel poverty. Local authorities will need to bring a range of projects to fruition, and input from the private sector can bring about innovation and help to bridge the delivery gap of a climate emergency being declared and meaningful progress being made.

Please do get in touch with the team if you have any related queries or would be interested in discussing how Burges Salmon might assist you.

It's taken decades for the climate message to be heard among the clamour of voters' demands for housing, transport and education. Many councils and governments are now on a path towards curbing emissions - many are just moving far too slowly.