25 September 2020| | 5 min read
City leaders call for greater investment to support Net Zero ambitions
Elected leaders are calling on the Government to invest and ensure that the UK’s recovery from Covid-19 supports cities like Newcastle’s net zero ambitions.
Authorities and mayoralties say there needs to be an increase in Net Zero investment; a renewal of the electricity grid; a commitment to ensure that the nation’s homes are retrofitted to be energy efficient; moves to speed up the transition to low and zero emission travel; and an expansion of local powers to drive down emissions.
'Seize opportunities to deliver a green recovery'
Cllr Nick Forbes, leader of Newcastle City Council, said: “The pandemic has, in exposing the fragility of the existing economy and how it is the poorest communities that suffer most from major financial shocks, shown the need to build more prosperous and resilient communities.
“We must seize the opportunities we now have to deliver a green recovery that will both reduce carbon emissions and enable us to create jobs and cleaner, healthier, safer places to work and live, reskill residents and restore the natural environment upon which we all rely.
“As local authorities our knowledge and understanding of our people and our areas means we are well placed to design and deliver the right solutions, but to deliver on them will require adequate Government investment, ambitious national frameworks and the necessary powers to enhance our ability to act in partnership to tackle the threat of climate change and set ourselves on a path to a flourishing net zero economy.”
UK council leaders working together
Cllr Forbes is among council leaders from across the country to sign up to a submission from UK 100, the network for UK local authorities which focusses on climate and clean energy policy, to the Government’s comprehensive spending review consultation.
The group says that “together we can renew our communities by working in partnership with government” and calls for action in five key areas:
Increase local Net Zero investment by establishing a Net Zero Development Bank to bring together all national government financing for the transition to Net Zero.
The bank should have both an obligation and the capacity to work with local authorities to develop place-based Net Zero projects and programmes, leveraging additional private investment to kickstart local energy schemes which are at too early a stage to be attractive to private finance.
Invest in renewing the electricity grid to ensure a smart decentralised energy system, enabled by a national framework for local area energy planning.
This includes expanding the mandate of Ofgem and of devolved nation energy regulators to include supporting the delivery of net zero emissions.
Ensure that the nation’s homes are retrofitted to be energy efficient by designing and delivering, with local government, a Government-led long-term plan to decarbonise buildings and heat that sets out actions and investment needed to enable all existing homes and buildings to be net zero carbon by 2050 at the very latest.
The plan should at least meet the manifesto commitment of £9 billion public investment to deliver Net Zero in our homes and buildings and seeks further private investment to meet this goal.
Speed up the transition to low and zero emission travel and enable the UK to be a global leader in developing low-emission vehicles including freight.
This should include a commitment to providing seamless access to electric vehicle charging infrastructure across the UK, while also providing long-term investment in public transport networks and in creating built environments that prioritise walking and cycling.
Expand local powers to take action on Net Zero by enabling the national Net Zero effort through an enhanced devolution settlement, combining ambitious national strategy with a fresh and fair mix of powers and resources for local & combined authorities; enabling clear & accountable local net zero delivery that unleashes the social and economic potential of every community.
Newcastle's Net Zero ambition
Newcastle declared a Climate Emergency in 2019 and set a target of being carbon neutral by 2030.
Following widespread consultation, in September 2020 the city set out an action plan, including more than 150 ways that may help achieve the Net zero ambition within 10 years.
Read the action plan here.