How local authorities are tackling climate change

Nigel Riglar, the 1st Vice President of The Association of Directors of Environment, Economy, Planning and Transport (ADEPT) and Chair of the Local Adaptation Advisory Panel (LAAP), discusses climate change and how ADEPT can drive transformation in our communities.

Climate change has been dominating the headlines and there has been a palpable shift in public concern over the environment.

This is backed up by the recent reports published by the United Nations (UN), the UK’s Committee on Climate Change (CCC), and the declaration of a ‘climate emergency’ by many local authorities and by the UK Parliament.

Although the planet will continue to exist, human life is set to undergo global climatic disruption at unimaginable levels. Radical changes are needed to address climate change and this means we are facing two unprecedented challenges: we must dramatically reduce our carbon emission and we also need to prepare for unavoidable environmental impacts by building climate resilience into our systems and services.

These challenges can only be tackled by taking urgent, radical action and this can only happen with great leadership of people and place.

Culture change

ADEPT members have significant powers to take action and influence culture change across organisations, partners and suppliers.

Our local authority members directly emit a small percentage of the UK’s carbon emissions – for example, South Gloucestershire Council emitted around 1% of direct emissions for their area in 2016 – but local authorities influence around 40% of emissions through their roles as planning, transport and waste authorities, as well as a major purchaser and commissioner of goods and services.

This power to influence makes our members uniquely placed to put the climate crisis at the heart of our place-shaping work, bringing people together and harnessing this desire for action, ensuring that everyone works together at all levels.

To support this work, ADEPT recently published two documents on the environment. The first is ADEPT’s position on climate change, cementing it as one of ADEPT’s three strategic priorities. One of the key elements is the request for net zero targets to be applied to all sectors of the economy, and for all new homes and commercial buildings to be net carbon zero by 2025.

The Good Practice Guide is an operational document that aims to boost climate change resilience and revolutionise the way local authorities manage and plan for climate change risk. ‘Preparing for a Changing Climate: Good Practice Guidance for Local Government’ prompts informed discussion, so local authorities can adapt to climate change.

The guide was written in partnership with the LAAP on behalf of Defra.

Climate resilience

ADEPT needs to support its members and make the climate resilience and adaptation process manageable. We will approach this in three main ways.

Firstly, we will provide an evidence-based understanding of the potential risks and dangers, including working with our leading universities to demonstrate how far and fast impacts will happen. For example, the IPCC Special Report on Global Warming shows the impacts that could be avoided by limiting global warming to 1.5°C compared to 2°.

Secondly, we will promote and support policies that will adequately reduce carbon emissions.

For example, this will include work on blue / green infrastructure, considering how we establish nature recovery networks and encourage sustainable development that enhances biodiversity. ADEPT will continue to lobby the government to make sure international and national frameworks supports this. Government action is vital – we need coherent national policies, robust regulations and strong regulatory powers in place.

Thirdly, ADEPT will showcase the actions needed to prepare for likely impacts. We are in the process of putting together a portfolio of case studies that demonstrate rapid transition, showing how local authorities are taking real action, now. We all need to effectively learn by doing and learn from others, to create evidence of hope.

Research and innovation

ADEPT will actively participate in ongoing research and innovation. An example of this is through the ‘Live Labs’ initiative. The Association is managing an exciting programme exploring the application of digital technology and innovation on the local road network. We’re keen to explore whether a similar approach could be adopted to showcase how local authorities are cutting carbon and adapting to the changing climate, whilst also informing policy development.

We want to decarbonise our local places by 2030, and imagination is key to overcoming challenges. We need to picture what this carbon-free future looks like for our members and adopt creative approaches. Crucially, ADEPT members cannot solve this on their own.

What we can do is influence, engage and lead, harnessing people’s passion for their local place and driving transformation in our communities.

More information about ADEPT can be found on its website.

Photo Credit – Pixabay

Nigel Riglar

Nigel Riglar

1st Vice President of ADEPT.

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