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UK100's report argues that Birmingham, Camden, Hertfordshire, Leeds and Nottingham are leading the way on integrating climate and clean air policies but Ministers' "refusal to recognise the importance of joined-up policy making" is stalling wider progress.
  • UK100 releases a follow-up to its Clean Air Net Zero (CANZ) report that sparked the ire of a Shadow Minister this month [January 17] when the Government flat refused to consider its recommendations
  • The new What CANZ be done? report highlights the ambitious action taken by local leaders in Birmingham, Camden, Hertfordshire, Leeds and Nottingham to align Clean Air and Net Zero policies
  • While 100% of Local Authorities surveyed are making efforts to integrate clean air and Net Zero in their transport plans, only 57% are doing so with their work on the heating and efficiency of their buildings. 
  • Local leaders call on the UK Government to introduce, and resource, a statutory duty on Local Authorities to act and report progress on both Clean Air and Net Zero and to provide sustained long-term devolved funding.
  • It follows a new study published in The Lancet that finds urgent action on clean air and Net Zero will result in an extra two million years of life in England and Wales 

A new report argues that Birmingham, Camden, Hertfordshire, Leeds and Nottingham are leading the way on integrating climate and clean air policies but Ministers "refusal to recognise the importance of joined up policy making" is stalling wider progress.

The report "What CANZ be done?" was released today [30 January 2023] by UK100, the UK's only cross-party network of local leaders committed to ambitious Net Zero and clean air action.

It follows the release of the organisation's "Yes We CANZ!" report in June 2022, which introduced the concept "Clean Air Net Zero" (CANZ) — ensuring Net Zero policies include a clean air audit and vice versa.

It also comes in the wake of a new study published in The Lancet that finds clean air and Net Zero action will give people in England and Wales an extra 2 million years of life.

It argued not enough has yet been done to learn from the mistakes that led to dieselgate, where diesel vehicles were promoted across Europe as a climate-friendly option without regard to the increase in deadly air pollution emissions associated with diesel combustion.

CANZ was raised in Parliament earlier this month [16 January 2023] when Defra Minister Rebecca Pow MP with a flat refusal to a Written Question from Shadow Minister Stephen Morgan MP asking whether Defra would consider the recommendations in UK100’s "Yes We CANZ!" report.

"What CANZ be done?", which features case studies on the joined up CANZ action being taken by cross-party local leaders in Birmingham City Council, the London Borough of Camden, Hertfordshire County Council, Leeds City Council and Nottingham City Council, has been sent directly to Defra with a plea from UK100 for Ministers to reconsider their reluctance to engage the issue. 

The letter to Ministers also requested a meeting with the Secretary of State to discuss how UK100 can support the Government to empower local leaders across the country to follow Birmingham, Camden, Hertfordshire, Leeds and Nottingham’s lead on CANZ.

From a Clean Air Zone in Birmingham to region-wide collaboration in Hertfordshire, the report uses case studies to highlights the local authorities already taking action to exploit the four key "win-wins" of CANZ:

  • Support a transport shift away from private car reliance
  • Make homes warmer through insulation and energy efficiency measures while switching to fossil-fuel-free heating systems
  • Work with the agricultural industry to support less intensive farming and reduce the level of ammonia emissions
  • Empower local communities to make informed choices with more data transparency and access

At the same time, however, the report restates the policy areas where a careful balance between the clean air and Net Zero agendas is necessary, including:

  • Learning the lessons of dieselgate and carefully considering which vehicles are most beneficial overall as the UK transitions away from petrol and diesel-only vehicles
  • Balancing the carbon emission reductions linked to "low carbon" heating fuels, like biomass and hydrogen, with the negative impacts on local air quality
  • Understanding the unintended consequences of poorly designed tree planting and green infrastructure policies
  • Considering the trade-off associated with air-tight energy efficiency schemes and the ventilation needs to improve indoor air quality

To accelerate CANZ progress, local leaders in the report are calling on the Government to:

  1. Introduce a clear mandate for local action, such as a statutory duty to act and report progress on both Clean Air and Net Zero — the move could accelerate action if it is accompanied by appropriate resources for local planning and delivery.
  2. Strengthen and integrate current UK Government policy and regulation on air pollution and Net Zero  — as recommended by the National Audit Office’s recent report on tackling local air quality breaches.
  3. Provide sustained long-term devolved funding, that brings an end to short term, competitive pots of funding  — as recommended in the recent Mission Zero independent Net Zero Review.

Welcoming the report Jason Torrance, Interim Chief Executive of UK100, says: "Aligning Clean air and Net Zero (CANZ) isn't pie in the sky — local authority leaders from Birmingham to Wiltshire are already taking ambitious and joined-up action to great effect. 

"But wider progress is being hampered by the government's lack of a coherent national strategy, disjointed short-term funding and a refusal to recognise the importance of CANZ. Local leaders are ready to support the government to maximise the win-wins of an approach to vital clean air and Net Zero action that offers more than the sum of its parts."

"We call on the Defra Secretary of State, Therese Coffey, or Minister, Rebecca Pow, to reconsider their refusal to consider the recommendations of UK100 members and sit down to meet with the local leaders that can set a nationwide example to follow."

Matthew Clark, Programme Manager of Air Quality at Hertfordshire Council Council, adds: “Linking activity on Clean Air and Net Zero can help drive your officers together, your politicians together, and your communities together over action which is bigger than the sum of its parts.”

Discussing the decision to introduce a single cabinet role with dual responsibility for clean air and Net Zero, Polly Cook, Chief Officer, Sustainable Energy and Air Quality at Leeds City Council, continues: “The benefit we’ve got from our structure is having a wide team who have a really deep understanding of the two issues - so when people are working on specific projects they can understand the implications for both.”

Alongside case studies from Birmingham City Council, the London Borough of Camden, Hertfordshire County Council, Leeds City Council and Nottingham City Council, “What CANZ be done?” makes an honourable mention of the work being done by Bath and North East Somerset Council, Wiltshire Council, Southampton City Council and Cornwall Council.


Information about the local authorities surveyed in the report:

To inform this research UK100 conducted desk-based research, scanning the Net Zero reports and plans of 21 local authorities from within the UK100 membership who are ambitious in their action on climate change and supportive of stronger action to tackle poor air quality.

We also convened a workshop in order for local authorities who are taking a combined CANZ approach to share their insight and experiences.

This included, for example, authorities who have had previously committed to WHO air pollution targets, which are more stringent than current local government statutory requirements, or have expressed to commitment to meet the WHO-10 guideline for PM2.5 by 2030 in partnership with the UK Government by signing our letter to Defra in response to consultation on environmental targets.

Figure 1 highlights the areas in which the local authorities engaged in the research were focusing their efforts to integrate CANZ approaches. It highlights that transport is being addressed by all local authorities, with biodiversity, buildings and energy being addressed by over half. Agriculture and waste are still being addressed, but by a much smaller percentage of local authorities.

More quotes from the report:

On UK100 recommendation to introduce a statutory duty to act on both clean air and Net Zero, Steve Arnold, Head of Clean Air Zone at Birmingham City Council says: “Statutory duties are helpful in terms of encouraging change, but there also needs to be the resources to create that change”

“Yes,” concurs Cllr Martyn Alvey, Cabinet Member for Environment and Public Protection at Cornwall Councils, adding: “[a statutory duty in relation to climate action and reporting would be helpful], but it would need to come with extra funding.”

Talking about the introduction of Birmingham’s Clean Air Zone, Steve Arnold, Head of Clean Air Zone at Birmingham City Council, says: “We listened and talked to people about what mattered to them - air quality is personal because everyone knows someone who has asthma, knows people whose lives have been affected by conditions such as diabetes and cancer which are linked to air pollution - and so we have been able to have more meaningful conversations with communities about delivering the Clean Air Zone. This enabled us to design mitigations into the scheme to address concerns of residents on low incomes and city centre businesses and achieve a more acceptable scheme.”

Talking about the need for careful public consultation on CANZ policies, Tom Parkes, Senior Air Quality Officer at London Borough of Camden, says: “The cost of living crisis, which is a big issue for residents, is going to dominate council communications - we’re fundamentally trying to save people money on their bills by improving housing…trying to save energy and help tackle the cost of living crisis, so I think we need to change the narrative.” 

About UK100

UK100 is a network of local leaders who have pledged to lead a rapid transition to Net Zero with Clean Air in their communities ahead of the government’s legal target.

UK100’s primary purpose is to support a local-led rapid transition to Net Zero and Clean Air. We do this through collaboration. 

To accelerate action, we believe in bringing together the most influential leaders across the country to learn together and agree on priorities for legislative and regulatory change while empowering them to engage with national decision-makers. 

We provide our network with the knowledge, tools and connections to make this happen.