Leading the charge for net zero

With the right support from the incoming government and by learning from successful initiatives like London’s Green Economy Action Plan, councils can lead in delivering net zero, says Niall Bolger.

Hounslow stands out as a leading London borough driving climate action, showcasing the pivotal role local government plays in steering the transition towards a net zero future.

With the urgency to combat climate change mounting, it's crucial for local authorities to receive robust support from the incoming government to effectively contribute to national and global objectives. Hounslow takes a proactive stance in climate action, spearheading London's Green Economy Action Plan and serving as one of six London Councils-sponsored climate change programs.

In my capacity as the lead CEO for environment and climate change for the Chief Executive London Committee and chair of the UK Cities Climate Investment Commission, 3Ci, I have been a staunch advocate for Hounslow's commitment to a cleaner, greener borough. One of our flagship initiatives is the development of net zero neighbourhoods, leveraging retrofit as a catalyst for broader neighborhood transitions.

To support its net zero ambitions, Hounslow has launched and delivered other numerous bold initiatives. The No Time To Waste recycling campaign aims to raise awareness about the environmental and cost-saving benefits of reducing household waste and increasing recycling efforts. To further support the transition to electric vehicles, the council plans to install an additional 2,000 EV charge points across the borough by 2026. In partnership with the Mayor of London. Hounslow is also introducing Green Skills Bootcamps to upskill residents for employment in the green economy. Additionally, Hounslow is pioneering a first-of-its-kind circular economy neighborhood model in Heston.

By championing a holistic, place-based approach that integrates retrofit projects with other interventions aligned with net zero objectives, we ensure a comprehensive sustainability strategy. This approach not only contributes to emissions reduction but also delivers tangible benefits to households and communities, including warmer homes, reduced energy bills, and the creation of greener and more resilient neighborhoods.

Local authorities require consistent and long-term funding to plan and execute net zero projects effectively. Uncertainty in financial support hampers the ability to invest in sustainable infrastructure and community programmes.

A clear and supportive legislative framework is essential. The Government should enact policies that encourage renewable energy adoption, green building practices, and sustainable transportation. Streamlined regulatory processes can facilitate quicker implementation of green projects at the local level, reducing bureaucratic delays and fostering a more agile response to climate challenges.

Empowering local government with greater autonomy to tailor solutions that best fit their unique circumstances can lead to more effective outcomes. Devolving more powers to local authorities, particularly in areas such as transportation, housing, and waste management, allows for more responsive and tailored approaches to sustainability challenges. This empowerment enables local councils to address specific local needs and opportunities more effectively.

London's Green Economy Action Plan offers several valuable insights for councils outside the capital. The plan emphasises the importance of integrating environmental goals with economic development, viewing sustainability as an economic opportunity. This approach not only drives investment and job creation but also ensures the achievement of environmental targets, enhancing both economic resilience and social wellbeing.

To foster the green economy, the plan includes developing a monitoring and evaluation framework with metrics to track growth and ensure a just transition. Additionally, it will assess current green skills provision against market demand and collaborate with partners to address gaps through a comprehensive green skills plan.

Supporting green small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) is another key focus, involving the analysis of best practices and mapping effective green finance and support programs. To mobilise finance for the green transition, the plan will develop net zero neighborhoods, influence funding policies, provide guidance on accessing green financing, and build a robust pipeline of net zero projects. Public procurement will also be leveraged to support the green economy.

Engaging communities is crucial for the success of any sustainability initiative. For instance, the Greater London Authority-funded projects in Somers Town, Camden, and Notting Dale, Kensington and Chelsea, have secured funding to develop strategies and work with residents on a wide range of innovative and pioneering projects. These community-developed initiatives will bring the benefits of transitioning to net zero directly to residents. Local authorities can adopt participatory approaches to ensure community buy-in and long-term success of their sustainability efforts.

Hounslow's Heston In The Loop has created an ultra low-waste neighborhood in the Heston area, embracing the circular model of production and consumption. Working in partnership with ReLondon this approach will be incorporated into the council's borough-wide recycling and reduction plan with learnings applicable across London.

London's approach to decision making heavily relies on data utilisation. By investing in robust data collection and analysis, councils can gain a comprehensive understanding of the environmental impact of their actions and adjust strategies accordingly. This data-driven methodology can be adopted by local authorities outside of London to make informed, effective decisions and track progress towards their net zero goals. In line with this approach, the Green Economy programme has developed a monitoring and evaluation framework for the green economy, equipped with metrics and indicators designed to inform targeted interventions.

As we stand at a critical juncture in the fight against climate change, the role of local government has never been more significant. With the right support from the incoming government and by learning from successful initiatives like London's Green Economy Action Plan, councils across the UK can lead the charge in delivering on net zero.

It is through collaboration, innovation, and a shared commitment to sustainability that we can secure a greener, more resilient future for all.

Niall Bolger is chief executive of Hounslow LBC

X – @niallbolger


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