Over recent months I’ve been working to unpack all of the developments in delivering Net Zero, analysing what they mean for the local context and assessing what barriers and challenges to delivery endure. The outcome of this activity are the Local Net Zero Delivery Progress reports.
It is hard to distil 8 sector reports into a blog post - when they have been produced by examining well over 100 Government strategy and policy documents, member surveys and captured the broad landscape changes that have happened over the past 12 months - so I won’t try - I will just urge readers to go and read the reports that are relevant or of interest - or at the very least the executive summary.
But I can share 3 key things the research tells us about the journey to local Net Zero and how we can build on the insights to foster action to ramp up the required pace and scale of the response.
Things have moved on. The Government has announced strategies or embedded into legislation commitments to progress Net Zero, from the Transport Decarbonisation Plan - which celebrated its first birthday on 14th July 2022 - to the Energy Bill which came out just a week before these progress reports, the Government has set out a direction of travel.
However - the details of the journey are still very unclear. And in some areas, such as energy - the fundamental role that local authorities need to play is not being recognised in the Government’s plan - despite the Climate Change Committee highlighting that squandering the ambition of local authorities represents a significant risk to achieving the Net Zero target. In other areas, such as the Net Zero Strategy, Heat and Buildings Strategy and the Transport Decarbonisation Plan, acknowledgement of the need for place-based solutions crafted and implemented by local leaders was vast. Yet details on how this will be enabled are largely missing. As is support for delivery, which brings me to my second point.
Across all of the sectors covered in the Local Net Zero Delivery progress reports, the need for long-term, non-competitive funding was flagged as fundamental to moving forwards. Capacity and time spent applying for funding was flagged as a barrier to Net Zero delivery - effort and resources that could be deployed more efficiently are used to submit applications with no guarantee of success.
Enabling LAs to access private finance was also flagged across reports as a priority area for attention. The development of the UKIB is positive in this respect, and we look forward to building on our relationship with the bank as it develops its local lending capacity and its technical advisory support. Transformational change needs new ways of thinking, new business models, new partnerships to leverage the long term, cross-vector, patient capital that will enable the pace and scale that is needed.
There is much more I could say about this but my final point really gets to the heart of what needs to change. We need to work more together. The UK100 member survey that informed the research highlighted that a significant number of our members have been working over the past 12 months to set out a clear route to what reaching Net Zero looks like for their authority, within the timescales set by their ambitious targets. This includes working to ensure that all teams and elected members understand what Net Zero means for them. The Government can and must do the same.
We welcomed the announcement of the Local Net Zero Forum in the Net Zero Strategy and see the potential it has to begin to foster some of the cross departmental and national to local relationships that will make the difference to delivery.
We need the roles and responsibilities made clear, and we need more substance about how we move from Declaration to Delivery. We need a detailed Delivery Framework and Plan and a Delivery Unit to get there.
We will ensure that the new Government has the insight from this work, because as it clearly shows, there is vast untapped potential for local authorities to go further and faster on Net Zero. We look forward to working with our members in advocating that the incoming Government harness it.