Local authorities should have a statutory duty to develop and implement low carbon plans, according to the Government’s Committee on Climate Change (CCC).
A report from the committee suggested such plans could include targets to reduce overall levels of waste through behaviour change; improved collection and recycling; and converting more waste to energy.
The CCC said councils were not currently required to set targets or implement measures to reduce emissions within their area, and that any desire to do more was “generally low given limited funding and lack of obligation”.
But committee member professor Julia King said local authorities had the potential to significantly impact on the scale and speed of UK emission reductions.
“There is a wealth of good work being done already at local and regional levels but many opportunities remain untapped,” she said.
“Local authorities need to show leadership and recognise their wider role in supporting local emissions reductions. The government needs to strengthen incentives for action by providing national funding where required and should consider introducing a statutory duty for area-wide, low carbon, plans.“
The report suggested local authorities could support emission reductions through energy efficiency programmes, promoting sustainable travel options, giving planning approval to renewable energy projects and developing recycling efforts.
It claimed such carbon reduction programmes could help cut energy bills, boost economic regeneration and jobs, and improve health.
Specific opportunities identified included three sectors said to account for 40% of total emissions in the UK:
- Waste: in reduction of overall levels of waste through behaviour change; improved collection and recycling; and converting waste to energy.
- Buildings: through energy efficiency measures for existing buildings and ensuring new builds are highly energy efficient; and promoting reduced energy consumption amongt residents and businesses
- Sustainable transport: in designing and implementing local sustainable transport plans; investment in green vehicles; enhancing public transport and promoting sustainable travel; and land-use planning.
The CCC also argued that councils could develop strategies by approving renewables projects, acting as champions for renewable energy generation and developing decentralised energy plans to include district heating schemes and small-scale low-carbon power plants.