For those of you dusting down your action plan responding to climate emergency declarations, following a pause to focus on all things Covid-19, you must have been heartened to hear the fanfare announcing the Prime Ministers ‘Green Industrial Revolution’, but when the noise died down what does it all mean for local government.
In APSE, we have always recognised that if Government wish to meet national targets around carbon neutrality and councils have declared challenging measures locally, then both will be mutually dependent on each other to make significant progress. From wider work we are engaged in this is not only a fact recognised by the Committee on Climate Change but also by the general public in the opinion polling we undertake through Survation.
It is understandable that the Prime Ministers plan has a major focus on job creation, giving a nod to many areas of the country who may benefit from green investment, as part of the levelling up agenda. One criticism would be the scale of the ambition shown, with many calling for much greater levels of spend. A wider package of £12B is welcome but even with the claim that this will stimulate three times as much again, as a contribution from the private sector, it still only takes this to half of the current spend on HS2.
Of the measures launched, it’s good to see that wind has regained popularity with Government and of course many councils are already experimenting with hydrogen. In terms of phasing out petrol and diesel cars, by replacing them with electric vehicles, councils will be key to getting appropriate charging infrastructure in place, alongside ambitions on public transport, cycling and walking. With regard to housing, hopefully lessons will be learned from the failure of ECO and councils will be at the heart of retrofit programmes in local communities, insulating homes, fitting heat pumps and phasing out gas heating. Plans to plant 30,000 hectares of trees per annum are welcomed, but this must be accompanied by funding to nurture and maintain them.
Overall, the ‘Green Industrial Revolution’ proposals show some promise for councils, should Government recognise them as key allies in a green recovery. Will this meet local government’s ambitions around achieving carbon neutrality locally? No, but perhaps a starting gun has been fired on Government action. Next month’s Energy White Paper and a longer term comprehensive spending review, than currently proposed, will really tell us whether this is a revolution or another false dawn.