13 Sep 2021
Despite the emergency we are facing, climate change and nature loss can easily be overlooked when making decisions on what seem like more immediate issues. Councils that have declared a climate and nature emergency have made the step to make these issues front of mind in all its own decision making. These councils need to bring this mindset to all the forums it takes part it.
Councils should encourage and support other entities with their contribution to the fight against the climate emergency.
What councils should do
Points 41 to 44 in our Climate Action Plan for councils suggest councils should:
41. Ensure the Sub-national Transport Body strategy is in line with carbon budgets (applicable in England only).
- Sub-national regional transport bodies are regional groupings of councils that discuss and decide what needs to happen on transport in the region. Often these bodies do not take proper account of climate change and continue to push for more roadbuilding and airport expansion (for example, Transport for the North before the intervention of local campaigners).
42. Use council memberships of Local Enterprise Partnerships and Local Nature Partnerships to ensure all their decisions are in-line with the green economy, climate reduction pathway and nature restoration plans (applicable in England only).
- Local Economic Partnerships (LEPs) are business-led groups that have been given authority by government to make decisions on spending. An analysis by Campaign for Better Transport found that 67% of the £3.4 billion spending was allocated to new roads.
- Local Nature Partnerships bring together wildlife groups, businesses and local authorities to propose ways to protect and enhance nature and provide advice on new developments. They are poorly resourced and much less powerful than LEPs but are an important voice that councils should amplify.
43. Provide support particularly to SME businesses to access funds and expertise for reducing carbon pollution and developing their role in the green economy.
- Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and businesses often don’t have the expertise or capacity to fully understand what they need to do to address the climate and nature emergency. Councils can bring these businesses together and give them advice, including on what funds there are to help them change. Most councils have forums to help advise and network businesses, for example the D2N2 Hub run by Chesterfield, Derby and Nottingham councils and others. The council should ensure that part of the work of this forum is supporting businesses on climate change and nature restoration.
44. Use influence with schools and others to ensure that meals are delivered in accordance with the official Eatwell Guide on healthy eating and most options on menus are plant-based, with less and better meat or fish in the other options.
- With many schools becoming academies, councils have less control over school meals. But they can use their voice to encourage schools to not only help young people understand the climate and nature emergency, but also to take what actions they can to mitigate these, for example through Forest Schools and in the school menu. Bristol City Council also run an annual awards scheme to influence the sustainability of food businesses in its area.
The government should reform Local Economic Partnerships (LEPs) to be only advisory and return all decision making and spending powers to directly elected local authorities.
The government must also make action on climate change and nature restoration a legal requirement for councils and strengthen these requirements where they already exist. This would enhance the strength of councils’ voices in the forums in which they participate.
LEP Watch: our work to change local transport spending priorities. https://bettertransport.org.uk/roads-nowhere/local-transport
Role of Local Nature Partnerships: an overview. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/role-of-local-nature-partnerships-an-overview
About the Bristol Eating Better Award. https://www.bristol.gov.uk/web/bristol-eating-better-award/about
How climate friendly is your area? https://takeclimateaction.uk/climate-action/how-climate-friendly-your-area-enter-your-postcode-see-results-your-community