But this simply does not stand up against the examples of communities and councils who are joining forces to tackle the impacts of climate change. None the more so than in Yorkshire.
As COP26 approaches and the national net-zero strategy is published, here are three things Yorkshire climate change initiatives can teach international and national governments about how to deal with the biggest crisis of our age.
1. Local climate action is essential – but it’s a long-term effort that needs long-term national funding: Councils we spoke to for our new research condemned the growing tendency of national governments to finance local net zero projects through short-term funding pots requiring competitive bidding between areas.
Without the guarantee of long-term funding, councils are struggling to develop ambitious long-term plans to support local climate action.
Nonetheless, some councils are finding ways to circumvent national funding constraints to invest in community – and third sector-led climate projects.
Bradford Council has launched a £300,000 Community Climate Action Fund to provide seed funding to grassroots community projects that will help achieve the district’s ambition to become net zero by 2038.
And last month five councils in England and Wales announced that they would soon issue a bond to raise money for local green projects.
In its Net Zero Strategy, the UK Government committed to “explore” how to consolidate funds supporting net zero initiatives at the local level, but there is no timetable attached to this commitment.
That is why we recommend that national governments should devolve sufficient, long-term funding to local areas to help all parts of the country meet the national net zero target.
2. Inclusion is crucial for the legitimacy of local climate action: Climate change adaptation will require everyone to make significant changes to their lifestyle and behaviours. To create legitimacy for these changes, it is essential that all kinds of communities are represented and involved in local climate action.
In promoting its Community Climate Action Fund, Bradford Council is reaching out to communities to support the best ideas. The council has so far received applications from 80 groups – a clear indication that it is resource, not lack of interest, that holds back disadvantaged areas from setting up their own climate action projects.
3. Effective local green skills initiatives grow the case for fundamental local devolution: As the economy transforms to meet net zero targets, the number of green jobs – jobs that produce goods and services intended to protect or restore the environment – will increase significantly.
Every area of the country needs to prepare now for the rising demand for green skills that will accompany the creation of green jobs.
The One Planet Pioneers (OPP) project in Middlesbrough illustrates the effectiveness of green skills development implemented locally. Led by charity Middlesbrough Environment City with support from public and third sector partners, OPP places young unemployed people in apprenticeship, kickstart and volunteering positions to give them experience in a range of environmental management activities.
Another example comes from Treesponsibility, a not-for-profit community group in the Upper Calder Valley which aims to improve the local environment and involve communities in tree planting. One of the group’s main projects in 2020 was the ReTree It! programme, where Treesponsibility organised residential training weekends for newly established tree-planting groups from across England.
OPP and Treesponsibility show the power of local skills development initiatives to reach people with practical mentoring and training opportunities in a way that remote national institutions cannot. We need a fundamental approach to devolution, transferring powers and resources to meet thedemands of the climate crisis to local areas.
The challenge of climate change becomes more acute by the day. The latent commitment and pride of communities, so central to the levelling up agenda, are part of the solution and ensure the process of decarbonisation is equitable and empowering for all places. We’re asking national government in particular: trust and invest in local climate action. As we can see across Yorkshire – it’s already producing results.
Communities vs Climate Change: The power of local action is a new report by New Local, published in partnership with Groundwork UK, Eden Communities and Grosvenor.
Charlotte Morgan is a senior policy researcher at the New Local think-tank.
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