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Beyond carbon reduction

Source: Public Sector Executive Sept/Oct 2012

Abigail Burridge, senior advisor at the LGA, describes how councils are working together to deliver benefits in carbon reduction.

A newly launched programme helps councils share information and best practice on tackling carbon, and shows how work in this area can cover so many other areas of policy.

PSE spoke to the Local Government Association’s senior advisor Abigail Burridge about the Climate Local scheme, and how it was supporting councils to push forward their own work on climate change and energy efficiency.

Climate Local launched on June 28 to supersede the Nottingham Declaration – a pledge that has been signed by over 98% of councils since its launch in 2000. Burridge said: “We wanted to create something that fits the purpose of where we are now.”

She explained: “Climate Local is about getting councils themselves to set the agenda on climate change and share information about what works and good practice. It is for us as a sector to lead the agenda: councils saying ‘we think it’s an important issue’, rather than waiting for central government.”

Savings and growth

Looking to explore what councils can do to boost income generation, opportunities for jobs, address fuel poverty and improve the quality of life for residents, the scheme is about much more than reducing carbon emissions, she said.

“It’s about how acting on climate change and CO2 and climate resilience – flooding and similar issues – can help save money and create growth.”

Councils work towards making their own estate and fleet more efficient, to save money, and also support their community to save money on their energy bills and become more flood resilient.

She said: “We set out a document about how we thought government policy could be better designed to enable councils to take action on climate change, because we very much support having an enabling environment to make it work for councils. The feed-in tariffs, for example, made financial sense to councils.

“We’re looking for a council-led way to help councils on climate change, because ultimately the most important people are the councils out there doing it and for them to help each other is the most effective way for action to take place. They understand the pressures and the decision making processes that councils have to go through, and that it’s not just about carbon: its also about saving money, promoting growth, ticking a lot of other boxes.”

Not reinventing the wheel

The scheme also encourages joint working between councils, with some signing up on a county-wide basis, Burridge said. This means different parts of the country can learn from each other, instead of “reinventing the wheel”.

She explained that one of the big drivers is reducing costs, with some councils seeing action on climate change as an opportunity to generate income. Saving energy on councils’ own estate could also free up money to be invested in delivering other key services.

Additionally, improving energy efficiency for residents has a knock-on health implication. Burridge said: “Cold is a big determinant of health; people living in cold homes have respiratory diseases, it affects cardiovascular health. So improving energy efficiency is also a health intervention, and obviously councils are taking on more public health responsibilities.”

Green Deal

Responding to the recently launched Green Deal, Burridge said she thought it was “a new tool in the box”, to help them improve the energy efficiency of housing in their local area, reduce energy bills, have more money to invest in the local economy, improve people’s wellbeing in their homes.

She added that since there is no statutory duty for councils to do anything on the Green Deal if they don’t want to, it will be a case of every individual council deciding whether it is appropriate for them to get involved.

Burridge concluded: “I think we’ll see a wide range of responses, a mixed reaction.”

Climate Local has only been set up for a few months, but conclusions on how climate change interventions can help councils will be published by the end of the financial year, around March 2013.

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