Opportunities for Councillors around climate change
Hope for the Future met with former Green Councillor (2004-2015) for Central Ward in Sheffield, Jillian Creasey, who told us:
Councillors are responsible for so many issues that it is important to frame climate change action in a positive way which draws upon the various co-benefits that actions would bring , for example in terms of reducing air pollution and improving public health, and tackling poverty and inequality. Ashden have developed really useful resource which examines the different co-benefits of tackling climate change, which canm be drawn upon to convince councillors to take strong climate action - https://www.ashden.org/programmes/co-benefits
Improving energy efficiency in council buildings can save councils thousands of pounds on their energy bills while reducing greenhouse gas emissions resulting from heating.
Further economic benefits arise from helping the unemployed or those on low incomes to heat their homes affordably, with fuel poverty costing the NHS approximately £1.4 billion a year. For example, Leeds City Region undertook a ‘Stern’ review for the region in 2012, showing that the region’s energy bill was £5.4bn with huge scope for savings through commercially viable energy action.
There are major opportunities for councils to improve the energy efficiency of local housing stock through retrofitting homes, as well as setting high energy efficiency standards, for example they could mandate that all new houses must be Passivhaus/zero carbon. For example, in Kirklees, the council has insulated more than 50,000 homes to make them more energy efficient.
Councils have extensive capacity to promote sustainable transport. For example greater Manchester has invested in a 10 year plan to build separate cycle lanes on all main roads. They also often subsidise public transport, and can work with bus and tram companies to improve the quality of public transport and electrify buses and trams. Nottingham city council has invested in one of UK’s largest electric and biogas bus fleets and expanded the tram network, which is powered by the council’s not-for-profit renewable energy company. They have decide against road expansions, and can introduce congestion charges and Clean Air Zones around the city centre, as has been done in London.
Councils can address fuel poverty through retrofitting all council housing to ensure it meets the highest energy efficiency standards, and through installing solar panels on council housing, as Nottingham has done. Brighton, Cambridgeshire, Cornwall and Enfield have their own renewable energy companies or cooperatives, meaning they can offer low-carbon, affordable energy to local people, and Bristol have funded the development of low-carbon community energy projects.