Budget must “prioritise the environment”, coalition warns

  • By Gemma Kappala-R...

The new Chancellor must grasp this “vital opportunity” to prioritise the environment in his first Budget by committing to help councils reduce carbon emissions at scale, a new coalition of local government and green groups has urged.

In a joint letter to the Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak ahead of the Budget on 11 March, the groups welcome the promise to protect the environment outlined in the Queen’s Speech last year and say that councils are uniquely well placed to help the Government meet its carbon emissions reduction targets. 

The coalition is calling on the Chancellor “to enable local government to take action around the green economy, retrofitting homes and workplaces, the planning system, transport, nature, climate adaptation, and waste and consumption”.

Estimates suggest that collectively, local government can influence around 70% of carbon emissions in England [1] thanks to the sector’s local knowledge, ability to bring together the wider community and delivery of relevant services. 

To date, around 240 councils across the UK from all political parties - 65% of all UK councils - have declared a “climate emergency”, showing their willingness to act [2].

With the UK hosting its first UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) in November, the Budget offers Government a chance to show that it understands the scale of the challenge of reaching net zero carbon emissions and the benefits it will bring. 

Darryl Eyers, President of ADEPT said: 

“Local authorities are at the forefront of the country’s approach to tackling climate change, with ADEPT members providing the local leadership on which achieving clean growth and net zero will depend. The Government will need the knowledge and experience of local councils, but to deliver effective action, both at pace and at scale, while we continue to support public health and the most vulnerable in our communities, we need sufficient support.”

Harriet Lamb, CEO of Ashden, said:

“Radical climate action by councils will also improve local people’s lives by providing warmer homes, better physical and mental health and new jobs in the green economy. This week’s budget is a real opportunity for central government to leverage the influence and community leadership provided by local government.”

Mike Childs, Director of Science, Policy and Research at Friends of the Earth, said:

“We can’t stop climate breakdown without the full and active involvement of local government. Yet right now they have both their hands tied behind their back because they have precious little money and are missing critical powers. 

“The Chancellor can begin addressing the first of these problems in the Budget on March 11th, and pledge that the government will work with local government, green groups and others to resolve the second this year. 

“Over 240 local authorities have declared a climate emergency which demonstrates that councils want to get on and deliver on this critical agenda”.

Cllr Julian Bell, Chair of London Councils’ Transport and Environment Committee, said: 

“This is a critical point in the global fight to reduce harmful carbon emissions and protect our environment for future generations. We hope to see recognition of local government’s critical role in climate action in the Budget, along with the support and resources we need to have a real impact in our communities.”

Click here to read the letter in full, which was sent to the Chancellor on Thursday 5 March 2020.

The signatories to the letter are: Ashden, the Association of Directors of Environment, Economy, Transport and Planning (ADEPT), Friends of the Earth, Green Alliance, Greenpeace UK, London Councils, London Environment Directors’ Network and UK100.


Notes to editors:

1. This figure is based on the following:
• Final UK greenhouse gas emissions national statistics: 1990 to 2018 (England subset):
https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/final-uk-greenhouse-gas-emissio... (344,295 Kt CO2) 
• CO2 emissions estimates - Grand Total (LA Influence) in England:
https://lginform.local.gov.uk/reports/lgastandard?mod-metric=8247&mod-ar... (241,718 Kt CO2)

2. A list of councils that have declared a climate emergency to date can be found here: https://www.climateemergency.uk/blog/list-of-councils/