DCN members stand ready to create greener communities

By Cllr Sam Chapman-Allen | 02 November 2021

COP26 is upon us and, with it, the opportunity to make progress in our path to net zero. In the national debate about climate change, the vital role local councils can play has not shone through.

Now’s the time for that to change. The dedicated local government day at COP on 11 November gives us the chance to showcase what councils can do.

Councils are committed to delivering net zero. More than 80% of District Councils’ Network (DCN) members have declared a climate emergency and more than half have a target of reaching net zero much sooner than 2050.

DCN members are already green innovators. We’re implementing ambitious energy projects: from district heat networks in Crawley to renewable energy storage in South Somerset. Many of our members are introducing cutting-edge active travel programmes utilising bike schemes, travel apps and electric vehicle infrastructure to name a few.

Through our role as local planning authorities we are laying the ground for change. Our districts in Central Lincolnshire are working on a joint Local Plan to include net zero emission standards beyond current building regulations.

We’re also making strides to get our own house in order – rolling out biomass and heat pump-powered leisure centres and offices, and tackling the challenge of retrofitting council homes. In 2015 Stroud DC was Europe’s first district to achieve carbon neutrality on its own estates.

Community leadership is vital too. Our unique closeness to our residents and businesses puts us in the box seat to deliver change right across the country.

So, what next? District councils are ambitious. But we need backing from central government to make the leap forward. With more powers and funding, we could do much more. We could retrofit all our housing stock. We could ensure all new homes are built to zero carbon standard. We could roll out EV charging infrastructure in all parts of the country. We could lead biodiversity preservation work and reclaim areas for nature.

DCN members in all places and from all parties stand ready to create greener communities across the country. We hope to see a positive consensus from COP26. And then the work really begins.

Sam Chapman-Allen is chairman of the DCN and leader of Breckland Council

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