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Are local authorities equipped to reach net zero?

26 July 2021

The Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) is calling for written evidence submissions on the recently published report by the National Audit Office (NAO) on Local government and net zero.

The NAO’s analysis followed an EAC request to examine how effectively central Government and local authorities are collaborating on actions to achieve net zero outcomes. Local authority responsibilities in England range from transport to planning, and from social housing to waste disposal, activities which generate a substantial proportion of the UK’s current emissions.

The NAO report has highlighted that a lack of funding, and poor communication to and from the centre, are two issues which are hindering local authorities wishing to play their full part in reaching net zero.

The EAC is interested in exploring the issues raised by the NAO report in greater detail, examining the role local authorities should play in reaching net zero, the funding and resources currently available to them, and how central Government is co-ordinating its engagement with local Government on the UK’s target to reach net zero by 2050.

Chair's comment

Environmental Audit Committee Chairman, Philip Dunne, said:

“I warmly welcome this excellent analysis from the National Audit Office, which they have produced following a recommendation from the Environmental Audit Committee. It complements the really important work the NAO continues to do in identifying the net zero challenges across central government, and supports EAC’s own work on mapping the country’s path to net zero.

Local authorities will have a huge role to play in delivering Net Zero Britain. This inquiry seeks to understand how they are preparing to deliver their own Net Zero commitments, especially the 230 that have declared a Climate Emergency. I hope local authorities will bring examples of the approaches they are taking to the Committee’s attention so that this inquiry can help spread best practice. We all need to work together in this common endeavour to help decarbonise our local economy.”

Send us your views

The evidence collected in this call will inform much of a one-off evidence session being held on Wednesday 8 September, with further details being announced in due course. This call for evidence and evidence session forms part of the EAC’s umbrella workstream on Mapping the path to net zero.

Terms of reference

The Committee is inviting written submissions to inform its forthcoming evidence session by 5pm on Thursday 26 August. These should focus on, but need not be limited to, the following issues raised in the NAO report:

  • What should local authorities’ roles and responsibilities in reaching net zero by 2050 be? How clear are the expectations about the role of local authorities?
  • What are the priorities for change or clarification to align the national planning framework with net zero?
  • What will need to be in place to ensure that the UK infrastructure bank loans to local authorities for net zero work are as effective as possible?
  • What funding and resources are available for local authority work on net zero, and what are the priorities for improving local authority funding?
  • What should government’s analysis of net zero funding to local authorities focus on in the next Spending Review?
  • How is central government co-ordinating its engagement with local government on net zero?
  • What role can local community groups play in helping local authorities achieve their net zero ambitions?

Further information

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