Sustainable futures: content key themes

This week the IPCC released its latest report on the state of the global climate emergency and the message is clear: major climate changes are now not only inevitable but irreversible. To those engaged in climate action over the past few years this stark warning is no surprise, evidence of the escalating climate breakdown has been around for decades with scientists and campaigners doggedly pushing for more action to address the crisis.

This new report is further evidence making it clear there is no dispute that human activity is causing climate change in ways “unprecedented” in thousands of years. Some of these changes are now inevitable and irreversible with temperatures likely to rise by more than 1.5C above pre-industrial levels in the next two decades bringing with it widespread devastation and extreme weather events.

In a statement reported in the Guardian António Guterres, the UN Secretary-General, warned that:

“[This report] is a code red for humanity. The alarm bells are deafening, and the evidence is irrefutable: greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel burning and deforestation are choking our planet and putting billions of people at immediate risk.”

The harsh reality of climate breakdown has been clearly evidenced this summer with heatwaves, wildfires and floods having devastating impacts on people and places across the world. With 2021 set to be the hottest year on record these catastrophic events are just a small glimpse into what the future will hold if drastic action is not taken.

This report makes for terrifying reading, however, there are glimpses of optimism and this along with many other reports must also serve to re-energise climate action at all levels of government, third sector, business and the public. With more extreme weather events – and all the challenges they bring with them – now an inevitable feature of our future, local communities will continue to experience the biggest brunt of the climate crisis. With this in mind, councils have a central and vital role in building resilience and investing in adaptation at a local level, alongside doing their part to reduce emissions. Public services must be funded to deliver on this work.

Over the last 18 months, LGIU has been working to collate information on what local governments can do to address climate change and create healthier, fairer and more sustainable places. From energy and waste to adaptation and wellbeing, local authorities have the chance to play a powerful role in shaping a better future. With COP26 now just three months away this is an important moment to assert the importance of urgent and real action that is needed now, on a global stage. Across this bundle we share content examples that fall into some of the key themes surrounding climate change.

Latest topical briefing

UK City Deals: key trends, best practice and future opportunities for place-based climate change adaptation

In light of recent extreme weather events across the world, it is clear that we must act fast to adapt to the impacts of climate change. This briefing is a call to action, highlighting key trends, best practice and future opportunities for place-based climate change adaptation.

Photo by Matt Palmer on Unsplash

Energy

Hydrogen as a clean energy carrier: introduction and opportunities for local authority climate action

This briefing discusses hydrogen as a clean energy carrier and associated technologies. Particular attention is given to the contexts within which adoption of hydrogen may support local decarbonisation ambitions, including case study examples. Read this briefing.

Moving Councils to net zero: Adopting a retro-first approach

This briefing explores opportunities for local government shifting to a reuse-first approach to property, arguing it provides an opportunity for councils to not only meet their carbon reduction targets but also better shape their towns and cities in a way that adapts to market conditions, is inclusive and maximises social and local economic benefits. Read this briefing.

Why the Local Electricity Bill could be important for a post Covid world

Could the Local Electricity Bill (2020) transform the current electricity regime? The Bill would introduce powers to issue licences to smaller providers of electricity. This would enable local generators of electricity to become local suppliers both to residents and businesses. Read this briefing.

Environmental governance

Leading edge – local partnerships delivering improved action for net-zero

Having declared a climate emergency and set a target for net-zero, many local authorities are now taking a similar approach to local climate action. Using examples of local climate partnerships, this briefing explores the rationale for engaging in partnership working, the types of partnerships that have been established and the benefits of this. Read this briefing.

Becoming a water sensitive city: lessons from the City of Gold Coast

This briefing explores City of Gold Coast’s water strategy which articulates clear and tangible actions to be completed by 2024 and aligns them with long-term goal of becoming a Water Sensitive City – moving the city into a sustainable future whilst maintaining its unique water-abundant lifestyle. Read this briefing.

Shaping a just and fair transition through UK City Deals: best practice and future opportunities for place-based climate mitigation

Through engaging with new original work exploring the climate action credentials of the City and City Region Deals, this briefing will seek to highlight key trends, best practice and future opportunities for place-based climate change mitigation. Read this briefing.

Pollution and transport

Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee: Air Quality and Coronavirus

This briefing deals with a report published by the Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs Committee (the Committee) to assess whether the Government’s latest Clean Air Strategy published in 2019 and the Environment Bill would be able to meet the air pollution challenge after the pandemic. Read this briefing.

Cyclepaths to Recovery: Fast-tracking active travel and public realm investments

This briefing looks at the benefits and challenges around fast-tracking active travel and public realm investments in response to government investment and provides examples of some local councils’ responses, particularly into major city centres. Read this briefing.

Public health or private wealth? Exploring the link between air pollution and inequality

Alice Creasy looks at why it is important to maintain the trend seen post-Covid-19 of reduced road travel leading to lower air pollution and explores the link between air pollution and social deprivation. Read this briefing.

Adaptation

Weathering the storm: the importance of adaptation and resilience in place-based climate action with local government in the lead

The effects of climate change are becoming more apparent with every passing month and year. This briefing highlights the importance of adaptation within local authority climate governance and explores six case studies of councils in the UK and Ireland working to improve adaptation and develop resilience. Read this briefing.

Green infrastructure: five innovative ways of creating healthier, greener cities

Home to over half of the planet’s population, urban areas are responsible for a significant proportion of global greenhouse gas emissions. This briefing will focus on the benefits of green infrastructure within cities and will highlight ways in which local governments across Europe are working to create greener urban spaces. Read this briefing.

Benchmarking urban heat

Urban heat and the impact of climate change are already being felt in our cities and suburbs. This briefing looks at urban heat with a specific focus on the benchmarking urban heat projects in four Sydney councils, undertaken in collaboration with Western Sydney University (WSU). Read this briefing.

Waste

Zero Waste Scotland: join our litter prevention campaign

As Scotland takes another step back to normality, with restrictions easing and people able to get back out to enjoy our beautiful green spaces and countryside, from woodlands to city parks and beaches to mountains, Zero Waste Scotland is calling on the waste and resources sector to back its award-winning campaign Scotland is Stunning. Read this blog.

The Circular Economy: a new life for waste and a new economic model

This briefing introduces the circular economy, a term often mentioned but possibly poorly understood, as an economic concept – followed by a discussion of the opportunities for local governments to participate in, and lead, changes towards achieving a circular economy. Read this briefing.

Recycling & waste management: issues and implications for Local Government

While waste management and recycling practices have largely been the domain of local government, they are increasingly of interest to state/territory, national and international bodies. This briefing provides a brief outline of initiatives in each State and Territory, along with specific issues and new directions of relevance to local governments. Read this briefing.

Housing

Homes fit for our future: getting on with climate-friendly housing

Achieving carbon neutrality in the UK within the next twenty to thirty years requires innovation throughout the housing system. This paper examines innovation impacts in embodied, operational and land-based emissions, and explores routes to make yesterday’s innovations tomorrow’s ‘business as usual’. Read this briefing.

Post-Covid towns and cities: changes to the urban landscape

How are town centres being reinvented as key changes prompted or accelerated by the pandemic become more evident? We focus on physical changes here in the second of our series on towns post-Covid. Read this briefing.

Councils and the climate crisis: making social housing energy efficient

Improving the energy efficiency of housing is a vital part of tackling the climate crisis. This means upgrading council homes and other social housing to reduce carbon emissions. This briefing looks at the money available to councils and whether local authorities can take a lead in encouraging higher energy standards in other tenures of housing. Read this briefing.

Community engagement

Climate commons: putting communities at the heart of the transition to net zero

With the impacts of climate change worsening with every passing year, this briefing draws on two recent reports which explore the challenges facing communities, as well as opportunities of building a local climate commons in the transition to net zero. Read this briefing.

Giving the community a say, ‘Planning Vancouver Together’

Early 2019, a team of residents came together and spent six months discussing a new city-wide approach to planning. In July 2019 City of Vancouver council approved the approach and released the ‘Planning Vancouver Together (PVT) plan, a three-year programme to involve the community in the development of the city. Read this briefing.

Maximising local socio-economic benefits of low-carbon development through shared learning

This briefing should be of interest to local authorities who want to undertake or encourage low-carbon development without having to rely entirely on corporate (or other private sector) development and the negative local externalities that often accompany it. Read this briefing.