The New Year always invites us to look back at the events of the last 12 months and to make plans and commitments for the coming year. And what a 12 months it has been for climate change work and milestones, leading up to COP26 in Glasgow. David Dale takes us through ADEPT's year.
ADEPT had a busy and successful 2021 in terms of its climate change work. Early in the year we completed virtually the programme of regional climate change workshops that had started in person before the pandemic, with sessions in the North West, North East, and Yorkshire & Humberside. We kept a high profile by providing ADEPT speakers and chairs for various national conferences and webinars on climate change.
Over 130 councils signed up to show their support for the Blueprint for accelerating climate action and green recovery at the local level. We contributed to the series of Blueprint Coalition workshops with MHCLG (as was) and other government departments, and to the Coalition’s paper calling on government to recognise local authorities as key partners in delivering net zero.
The Live Labs programme has demonstrated across several of the projects a variety of different approaches to decarbonisation – such as the geothermal, solar and kinetic energy pilots in Central Bedfordshire and our proposals for Live Labs 2 focuses on ‘net zero highways’ including adaptation to already baked-in climate change. We worked with CIPFA to deliver 4 joint webinars – towards net zero and a green recovery, building the business case for renewable energy, sustainable procurement, and measuring a council’s carbon footprint. We engaged with the National Audit Office on their study Local government and net zero in England, and have given evidence at a number of Parliamentary Select Committee inquiries on this subject.
My blog in early 2021 started with the recent flurry of official and other publications – the Treasury’s interim Net Zero report and review of the Green Book, and the government’s long-awaited Energy White Paper. There was also the Climate Change Committee’s sixth carbon budget with its supplementary report on local government action; the National Audit Office (NAO) reports on net zero, flood risk management, and the government’s wider environmental aims. If that wasn’t enough there were also various reports on the local climate challenge from green groups including our Blueprint partners, Ashden, Friends of the Earth and the Green Alliance.
The official reports have kept on coming throughout the last year. As well as the NAO report, we have seen various government plans and strategies including Decarbonising Transport, Net Zero Strategy: Build Back Greener and the Heat and Buildings Strategy. The Net Zero Strategy was welcome not least because it included a chapter on the vital need for a place-based approach to climate action, and recognised the need for greater clarity between central and local government, and to address capacity and funding issues. It was great to see the commitment to setting up a Local Net Zero Forum to provide better engagement with the local government sector. It was also good to see that the 5 BEIS Local Energy Hubs are becoming Local Net Zero Hubs to promote best practice in decarbonisation and clean growth, and support local authorities to develop net zero projects that are broader than just energy.
COP26 took place in November after a 12 month delay. We will have to wait and see how the various pledges translate into practical actions. The pace of the event was rapid, and each day had a different focus, bringing a new round of announcements and commitments with varying groups of nations signing up. There were key agreements on issues including deforestation, energy and green finance, but it was disappointing that there wasn’t more of a focus on the significance of local government. The nearest thing was the Cities, Regions and Built Environment Day which focused on sub-national collaboration to deliver a net-zero and resilient built environment – over 1,000 cities and local councils globally are now participating in the UN’s Race to Zero campaign. The UK retains the Presidency until COP27 in Egypt in November 2022.
So what else will 2022 bring? ADEPT will need to review and update its policy positions on Climate Change and Clean Growth. We also need to take a fresh look at the LAAP/ADEPT Good practice guidance on adaptation in light of the Climate Change Committee’s latest progress report and risk assessment. The Waste Working Group has agreed to run a waste and decarbonisation webinar, and to refresh the Waste and Resources policy position to address climate change more directly. And we will be considering how best to contribute to work on sustainable procurement, starting with the Lunch & Learn session on 25th February with presentations on two recent toolkits developed to help councils with this.
Beyond that, our future work programme will be determined to a large extent by the yet to be formed Local Net Zero Forum. As one of the organisations name-checked in the Net Zero Strategy, ADEPT has already been invited to sit on the forum. The latest information from BEIS is that civil servants are working on the proposal for Ministers and hope to establish it soon. It will meet regularly, and include membership bodies such as the LGA and APSE as well as ADEPT. We also await the publication of refreshed planning policy and the Levelling Up White Paper, both of which need tackling the climate crisis at their core.
We will continue to work with our partners in the Blueprint Coalition. The partners met recently to review achievements to date, identify future opportunities and challenges, consider Coalition membership, and agree work priorities going forward. There was a strong commitment to continuing to work together as a unique collaboration that brings together partners from the local government sector (the LGA, Solace and London Councils continue to be active members), academia, and green campaign groups. The Coalition will update the original Blueprint document to reflect recent government strategies and plans, continue to build local authority support for the Blueprint to give further weight, continue to communicate the case for the essential role of local government in tackling climate change, and focus on funding and skills as cross-cutting priorities across all the themes of the Blueprint.
Within ADEPT, once the Local Net Zero Forum is up and running, we will need to give some thought on how best to further develop our climate change leadership and co-ordination. Climate change cuts across the remits of all the Boards and there is currently no dedicated group to take it forward. If you have any good ideas about how to do this, please let us know!