Powering up local communities with cleaner community energy, local food supplies and strengthened public transport networks is essential if the UK is to hit its 2030 climate targets, according to a new report by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on a Green New Deal, co-chaired by Green MP Caroline Lucas and Labour MP Clive Lewis.
The report marks the culmination of the APPG’s ‘Local Edge’ inquiry, which held evidence sessions to explore best practice solutions at a local level to reduce carbon emissions across three sectors – heat, energy and buildings; food, land use and nature; and transport and air quality – and to identify regulatory changes needed in order to enable local initiatives to reach their potential, scale up, replicate and flourish.
The UK’s Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) has committed to cut carbon emissions by 68% below 1990 levels by 2030. While the Government has set bolder carbon reduction targets for 2035 and 2050, meeting the 2030 target represents Parliament’s most immediate challenge – which will be impossible to reach unless it devolves significant powers and resources to a local level, the report argues.
Caroline Lucas, Green Party MP for Brighton Pavilion, said: “We know that every home can be its own power station. But now we need national Government to power up communities with the finance, resources and regulatory frameworks to help them scale up and thrive. If we’re going to meet our immediate climate targets and secure a liveable future – with warm and comfortable homes, renewable and affordable local energy, healthy and low-carbon food, and cheap and clean transport – we urgently need to put Green New Deal policies into practice, with local people and communities at the forefront.”
The report links climate aspiration and constitutional obligation – offering a joined-up response to the polycrisis of a climate emergency, cost of living scandal, energy crisis and constitutional dilemma.
Evidence sessions held by the inquiry discovered examples of transformative local initiatives around the country – but found communities were held back by the absence of the necessary national regulatory frameworks, and finance required to scale them up and reach their full potential. The most progressive examples follow a pattern in which national governments set out statutory climate obligations, but allow localities to determine how best to deliver them.
One of the most transformative proposals would be for the Government to make its commitment to a 68% reduction in carbon emissions on 1990 levels by 2030 a binding obligation on all public sector organisations and agencies for all their spending, programmes and projects.
Amongst other recommendations, the report calls for a European-style ‘right of local supply’, promoting the development of more localised energy communities, by allowing community renewables generation schemes to sell directly to local people; changes to grid access charging in favour of more localised energy systems; and energy efficiency funding to be restored to at least 2012 levels.
The report also demands an end to tax allowances for the use of fossil fuel vehicles. Lessons from cities such as Manchester suggest that conflicts between communities and commuters can be minimised if integrated, affordable public transport alternatives are on offer.
Some of the report’s other key recommendations include:
- Planning law must be aligned with net zero climate targets and they should be specifically included in local plans.
- Local authorities must be given a statutory duty to cut transport emissions in their area by 68% by 2030.
- The duty to deliver integrated public transport services should be returned to local authorities.
- The ECO energy efficiency programme should be replaced with a revised version of Warm Zones – developing whole-area, rather than individual, approaches to energy conservation.
- All carbon subsidies (to fertilisers and fuel) must be swapped into support for regenerative and organic farming.
- A new Local Food Investment Fund should be established to provide strategic support across the UK for investment in localised agri-food infrastructure and enterprise.
- The 15-acre minimum size threshold for applications to DEFRA’s community supported farm schemes should be scrapped.
Because of the UK’s over-centralised approach to energy generation, storage and distribution, specific recommendations were made to the energy regulator Ofgem. The report calls for Ofgem to open its Innovation Funding to promote more localised ‘combined heat and power’ systems; to switch to an average cost pricing system that favours more localised and lower cost renewables; and to prioritise the lowest carbon/lowest marginal cost supplies, ending the current situation in which wind turbines can be stood down to keep power stations running.
The full report can be found here.