Government failing to map route to net zero, report finds

Most councils have now declared climate emergencies, but they do not have strategies in their local plans to make sure they reach net zero carbon, new research has found.

Around 85% of English councils have announced ambitious targets to reach net zero, many for 2030 rather than the government’s 2050 target.

However, of the 24 local authority local plans adopted outside Greater London since the government’s legally binding 2050 target was set, only one sets out a quantified strategy to reduce its area’s carbon output, according to research from the countryside charity CPRE.

Without clear strategies involving housing, businesses, industry and transport – which between them generate 62% of carbon emissions – it is unlikely that councils can meet their climate targets, especially given most local plans are designed to last about 15 years.

grayscale photo of crane in front of building

Government planning inspectors, who are responsible for signing off on local plans, are not required to prioritise reaching net zero or demand that plans are clear on how they help councils get there.

Despite a national policy requirement that local plans should help to achieve ‘radical reductions’ in emissions, the CPRE found little evidence of such measures, calling for planning inspectors to give as much weight to environmental targets as they do housebuilding ones.

CPRE Chief Executive Crispin Truman commented: ‘We’re not going to hit net zero by accident. We need to plan for it. Unfortunately, local authorities are hamstrung by national planning policy that is woefully behind the times on this issue. Local plans need to act like road maps plotting the path towards the sustainable future envisaged by the government’s climate change legislation. That they don’t come close to doing so is proof of the failure of current national planning policy.

‘In terms of climate, we are planning to fail. It is impossible to hit net zero if it isn’t prioritised in local plans. Providing the attractive, affordable housing that people need and ensuring it is environmentally sustainable is not an either/or trade off. We need to do both at the same time and with the same commitment.’

CPRE is calling for national planning rules to amended so that:

  • All new developments demonstrate a measurable reduction in net carbon emissions over the life of the development
  • All plans demonstrate how they will deliver a reduction in private car mileage
  • Any plans to boost housing and employment must also be justified on the basis of the additional carbon reductions they will deliver
  • All councils must have their net-zero carbon target integrated across the local plan as a whole

Photo by Ben Allan


Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Help us break the news – share your information, opinion or analysis
Back to top