The cuts in carbon emissions that we need to make over the next decade can’t be delivered without action by local authorities. But in order to scale up action, councils need more long term resourcing and the right powers to tackle climate change.
That is why Kingston Council, in south-west London, is one of 130 authorities to have signed the Blueprint for Accelerating Climate Action and a Green Recovery at the Local Level. The plan – produced by Friends of the Earth, local government associations and others – aims to give councils more resources and regulatory and financing powers.
The Blueprint calls for a joint local and central government taskforce on climate change, supported by other stakeholders, to take policy proposals forward. It also identifies five key priorities for government:
Kingston Council signed up to the Blueprint in November 2020. The council already plays an active role in lobbying both national and regional government on environmental issues. The Council has raised concerns with proposed changes to planning regulation, on the expansion of Heathrow and Gatwick Airports, and on waste. At the regional level, the Council has lobbied to get more clean buses into the area, and for funding for active travel.
Signing up to the blueprint has amplified the council’s voice, and helped it call for fundamental reform and backing from government to take more effective climate action.
The government is engaging with the Blueprint. The coalition behind it has run a series of workshops with government policymakers on different climate action themes such as funding, retrofitting, planning, waste and transport – bringing in voices from councils such as Kingston to explain the barriers to delivering their climate action plans.
The Blueprint coalition has been consulted by the Climate Change Committee and the National Audit Office ahead of their influential reports on local government climate action.
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Kingston Council declared a climate emergency in June 2019 with unanimous cross-party support, building on overwhelming support for climate action from councillors and officers.
The authority was alerted to the blueprint by a local resident involved in its creation. Kingston has many residents that either work in the environmental sector or are part of community environmental groups, which flag initiatives such as the Blueprint.
The portfolio holder for Environment and Sustainable Transport at the time, and the Council’s Chief Executive backed the Blueprint plan because the Council doesn’t have the powers or resources needed to reach its climate targets without help from national government.
London Councils, the local government association for London, plays an important role in representing the views of London boroughs such as Kingston to national government. London Council’s Climate Change lead officer has contributed to the Blueprint ensuring it reflected the policy asks from local councils.
No funding was required for the council to support the Blueprint. Lobbying and responding to national consultations takes council officer and councillor time – the Blueprint should help to reduce this time by lobbying on behalf of councils.
It can be challenging for the council to keep up with the wide range of policy consultations and campaigns on climate issues and relate this to what is most important locally. Kingston found that keeping good channels of communication with local community groups can help.
Find more resources for councils on our Learning Out Loud pages.
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