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Net Zero - Government will struggle to achieve 2050 target unless they engage with local councils on climate action

29 October 2021

The UK will struggle to reach the net zero target by 2050 unless Government steps up efforts to work together with local councils on climate action in areas such as housing and planning, low-carbon heating and energy efficiency, says the cross-party Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee in its report on local government and the path to net zero.

The report recommends the Government immediately begin working with local government on a net zero delivery framework which sets out the roles and responsibilities of local and central government and clarifies the critical role of local councils in delivering a just transition for their local communities.

On funding, the report notes that the Net Zero strategy, published last week, includes no clear commitment to increasing the level of long-term funding specifically for local authority climate action. The report recommends the Government come forward with a long-term funding plan for local authority climate action.

Chair's comment

Clive Betts, Chair of the Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee, said:

“Local councils will have a critical role to play in efforts to achieve the 2050 ‘net zero’ target, building public confidence in climate action, and ensuring a just transition. From low carbon housing standards, energy efficiency and retrofitting existing housing stock to planning, transport and active travel, local councils have influence over a wide range of areas for potential emissions reductions.

“The Government must learn the lessons of past failed nationally delivered ‘green’ schemes. Schemes should be delivered in partnership with local councils who are trusted by their communities and who can provide the organisation, advice and promotion which will be vital in raising people’s understanding about the changes taking place. Local councils have a crucial role to play in ensuring there is a just transition and winning public trust for the changes needed on the path to net zero.

“The Government needs to work with local government on producing a delivery framework to achieve net zero, clearly setting out the relative roles and responsibilities of both local and central government. To meet the scale of the challenge and enable local councils to make long-term decisions on behalf of their communities, the Government should also come forward with a long-term funding plan for local authority climate action.

“Moving to lower or zero emissions from new homes is important. But to reach net zero, it’s crucial that insulation is improved in existing homes and that householders are offered viable choices and incentives to replace their gas boilers and decarbonise their heating. The Government’s current approach, and lack of incentives to do otherwise, risks a large number of existing gas boilers simply being replaced with new gas boilers.”

The report recommends the Government set out its long-term funding plans to decarbonise heating beyond 2025 and outline the share of funding for retrofitting it anticipates will come from private investment. The report also calls on the Government to consider offering tax incentives, which could include lower VAT, stamp duty and council tax, for energy efficient measures and homes.

The report identifies the need for net zero to be integrated into the planning system, recommending net zero is given a central role in the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF). In the longer term, the Government should also amend the NPPF to require all housing development to be properly serviced by public transport and active travel networks and be within walking distance of local shops and amenities. As far as possible, all employment areas should also be served by public transport.

On the Future Homes Standard, which will ensure homes are built with 75-80% lower carbon emissions from 2025, the Committee’s report calls for the Government to accelerate progress on the technical consultation, ensuring this takes place in 2022 rather than 2023 and enabling the relevant legislation to be brought forward as soon as possible. The Government should consider setting a further target of moving to zero carbon homes by 2030.

The Government anticipates that only 200,000 heat pumps a year will be fitted into new homes by 2028. The report recommends that as the Government's target is to build 300,000 homes a year by the mid-2020s, it should explain where the additional heat pumps and other low-carbon heating systems will come from to meet the demand of all 300,000 new homes.

Further Information

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