Devolution in the North key to tackling climate changes, says the Liberal Democrats

Tim Farron, who has backed devolution in the North to help tackle climate change. Photo: Kirsty O'Connor/PA Wire
Tim Farron, who has backed devolution in the North to help tackle climate change. Photo: Kirsty O'Connor/PA Wire
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Devolution in the North would let Yorkshire take more control over its response to climate change, the Liberal Democrats have claimed.

In policy to be announced at the party's conference at the weekend, former leader and Shadow Local Government Spokesman Tim Farron will say giving more powers to local councils is the way to tackle the threat posed by climate change.

But speaking to the Yorkshire Post, he went a step further to say the need for devolution was "more apparent than ever" in the context of climate change.

Mr Farron, who is also the party's spokesman for the North, warned government could only meet the challenges of the climate emergency if politicians “radically overhaul how we do politics”.

Liberal Democrat delegates are due to debate plans to achieve net-zero emissions by 2045. Under the plans, local councils across England will be given additional borrowing powers and funding from central government to design, implement and monitor their Zero-Carbon Strategies.

Local authorities would be given increased powers:

- Over housing and planning, ensuring that local development plans contribute to achieving net-zero emissions.

- To develop and implement energy efficiency and renewable energy programmes for buildings – helping tackle fuel poverty in the areas too.

- To set-up and expand their own renewable energy generation.

- To run or commission and regulate local bus and trams networks.

- To build new infrastructure for walking, cycling and charging electric vehicles.

Mr Farron said: “The climate emergency is the biggest issue we face bar none.

“Local councils across the country have stepped up to the plate in taking measures to tackle climate change, spurred on by enormous pressure from young people who are all to aware of the devastating damage that is being done to our planet.

“But sadly they are being betrayed by a Conservative Government who have repeatedly failed to take the role of local government seriously - continuing to slash local council budgets and refusing to increase their powers.

“People deserve better and the Liberal Democrats demand better. Local authorities know best how to cut greenhouse gas emissions in their areas. That’s why we would give councils more powers and, most importantly, more money to help us achieve a net-zero UK.”

He added: "With Government in Westminster diverting all attention in both Parliament and the civil service to Brexit, it has become more apparent than ever the need for devolution. By giving local authorities the ability to tackle the climate emergency themselves, we are empowering people right across the UK to tackle the biggest issues facing them, especially when this Tory government won’t.”

Leaders of 18 of Yorkshire’s 20 councils, plus metro mayor Dan Jarvis, submitted plans last year to form a so-called One Yorkshire mayoral authority which would have powers passed down from Westminster.

Such an authority would be given devolved powers and budgets from central government, with similar deals already in place in Manchester, Liverpool and the Tees Valley among others.

But central government has rejected the proposals, with then Communities Secretary James Brokenshire saying Yorkshire was too big and diverse for its to fit government criteria for devolution.

Ministers have urged leaders to fully implement the Sheffield City Region deal, which was signed in 2015 but has yet to be implemented because after talks broke down between local leaders.

Northern Powerhouse Minister Jake Berry suggested in his speech that the Government would prefer a deal covering West Yorkshire.