Barker: Further mandatory climate change requirements for councils not necessary

The Climate Change Minister Greg Barker yesterday stated that he didn’t expect local authorities to be further mandated with climate change policies. Speaking at a conference of local councillors organised by Friends of the Earth, Mr Barker argued that central government is mandating councils to enact a number of environmental measures already (such as the Green Deal scheme) and as such further regulation would conflict with the government’s localism agenda.

At the same conference, the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) outlined the objectives of an investigation into the role of councils in climate change adaptation which is due to report to Mr Barker in the spring. Chief executive of the CCC David Kennedy said the report will aim to

–          identify areas where councils should focus climate change action

–          assess opportunities for emissions reductions

–          consider the green policy levers local authorities could deploy

–          make recommendations on how government can encourage local authority action.                                                                                                                 (BusinessGreen)

The CCC review begins amid criticism from environmental groups that climate change is being ‘deprioritised’ in many local authorities. The Green Alliance recently published a report claiming that

–          37 per cent of councils are “deprioritising climate change”

–          28 per cent are purely focusing on tackling emissions from their estate and ceasing to work on wider climate change issues

–          Only 35 per cent retain their commitment to climate change policies and believe action may increase under the government’s localism agenda

Shadow Climate Change Minister Luciana Burger welcomed the CCC report, but contended that local authorities need more rigid guidelines on climate change. This echoed a new Friends of the Earth petition calling for councils to be forced to take action on climate change.

Reacting to the news, Andy Johnston, Chief Executive of Local Energy stated that he “welcomed the authoritative advice that the CCC can bring, but councils and communities should be free to set their own targets”. He continued “most councils already have a clear climate change agenda, and for many it is quite ambitious. Our recent survey into the effect of cuts found that the majority of councils have retained their overall climate change strategy, albeit with greater emphasis on the business/cost saving case for emissions mitigation.  Councils don’t need Whitehall targets, they need help delivering the ones they’ve already got.”

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