Published on 17 - May - 2012
Local authorities could be the key to meeting national emissions targets, according to a report by the Committee on Climate Change (CCC).
Report calls on councils to cut carbon emissions
The report, commissioned by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC), says that local authorities play a crucial role in contributing to emissions reductions and helping the UK to meet its carbon budget targets because they have significant influence over key emitting sectors, such as residential and commercial buildings, surface transport and waste.
Currently there is no requirement for councils to set targets and implement emissions reduction measures. The CCC says that limited action at local level puts the achievement of national carbon budgets at risk. As a result, it is recommending that a statutory duty should be introduced for local authorities to develop and implement carbon plans and is calling for national funding to support such programmes.
With stronger incentives the report identifies how local authorities can support emissions reduction by using energy efficiency programmes, promoting sustainable travel options, giving planning approval to renewable energy projects and developing recycling programmes. It claims that such carbon reduction programmes could also bring a raft of benefits to local communities including lower energy bills, economic regeneration and jobs and better health.
The CCC says that local authorities can also lead by example and cut emissions in their own estates and operations and integrate climate change risk into their key functions and services.
Professor Julia King, Committee member, said: "The research we've done shows local authorities have the potential to significantly impact on the UK's scale and speed of emissions reductions. There is a wealth of good work being done already at local and regional levels but many opportunities remain untapped. It is essential that these opportunities are delivered if we are to meet our national carbon targets."
Opportunities highlighted by the CCC on how and where local authorities can cut carbon emissions include three sectors which account for 40% of total UK emissions:
Buildings: through energy efficiency measures for existing buildings and ensuring new builds are highly efficient and promoting reduced energy consumption amongst residents and businesses.
Sustainable transport: in designing and implementing local sustainable transport plans; investment in green vehicles; enhancing public transport and promoting sustainable travel; land-use planning.
Waste: in reduction of overall levels of waste through behaviour change; improved collection and recycling; and converting waste to energy
The CCC believes that is these measures are taken, emissions targets will be achieved and emissions could be reduced by 20% in 2020, relative to 2010 levels, contributing to meeting national carbon targets.
In addition, there are opportunities for local authorities to help achieve emissions reductions in the power sector through:
Local planning: in approving renewable projects
Acting as champion for renewable energy generation
Developing decentralised energy plans to include district heating schemes and small-scale low carbon power plants.
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