Petersfield Climate Action Network MPZ0038
Written evidence from Petersfield Climate Action Network
Submitted by Melanie Oxley on behalf of Petersfield Climate Action Network
I represent Petersfield Climate Action Network (PeCAN), a new charity and community group set up by our Town Council, some District Councillors and local experts and activists. PeCAN is a member of the South East Climate Alliance (SECA), from whom you have already received evidence to this inquiry.
I am an experienced ecologist and campaigner who has worked for a number of not-for-profit organisations in paid and unpaid capacities. Amongst other projects, I devised and delivered Planta Europa and The Peat Inquiry with Plantlife. I have managed voluntary organisations such as the British Association of Nature Conservationists (expert seminars & lobbying). Most recently I worked for The Ecology Consultancy in London on development ecology and green infrastructure. I am now retired and share my expertise with local groups.
I have a current appointment as a standing awards panel member of the Mayor of London’s Greener City Fund. I am a Trustee of the Petersfield Physic Garden and a PeCAN Committee Member.
I am currently a member of a COP26 East Hampshire Action Group convened by our local MP, Damian Hinds. I have given particular input to the way in which our local authorities can be helped to deliver net-zero carbon.
Making climate change mitigation and adaptation central to all that Government does is vital in order for us to even think of staying at the 1.5C warming of the Paris Agreement. This should mean a change in the culture of Government itself, with lower emphasis on party politics, more co-operation, bringing in more expertise and then giving authority to those chosen to drive this from now.
Already we have the makings of good initiatives from Defra with its remit encompassing climate change and energy, sustainable consumption & production, including a National Waste Strategy. ELMS is in its pilot phase and nature recovery zones are being designated soon (eg. Gower peninsular). But these schemes will be too slow and too piecemeal to make the required difference, without a strong lead right at the top of Government.
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?
As set out by the NAO Report Local government and Net Zero, there is now great urgency to the development of a coherent approach, especially given the imminence of the next United Nations climate conference, COP26. This needs to comprise:
• A clear central lead for net zero carbon. This will need to be a department or persons who have over-arching influence over all Government Departments, including HM Treasury. This could put achieving net-zero carbon by 2050 at the centre of everything Government undertakes. (NB. there is no climate crisis lead even within Defra).
• New statutory responsibilities for local authorities to lead, set out plans and monitor and report on area wide emissions. A clear expectation that local government has a leadership role as well as responsibility for, the emissions of their whole local area.
• Councils must be given a statutory duty to tackle the climate and ecological emergencies by reassessing all their functions, from running offices, social housing and leisure centres, to conservation management of greenspace, more stringent tree protection, zero-carbon waste management.
What are the priorities for change or clarification to align the national planning framework with net zero?
• The NPPF and the Planning for the Future must be withdrawn. This view is supported by very many organisations. These documents are at odds with the new Environment Bill and they will allow for further catastrophic damage to wildlife, habitats and ecosystems. For these reasons they are not fit for the purpose of a net-zero carbon future.
• Future Homes must become Now Homes. Given the long timescales involved in large planning applications, ie. from planning permission to build, all currently approved developments must satisfy Future Homes standards. In some cases this will mean going back to the drawing board and further delays, but far better this than eg. a 1300 dwelling development installing gas boilers now, only to require each new home owner to retrofit heat pumps in 2030.
• A new planning framework must put ecosystem services & zero-carbon development at its centre. Net zero carbon standards would logically rule out projects such as airport expansion (air travel is the worst culprit), HS2 (which would have been a net zero carbon asset had the UK remained in the EU), any thought of development of the Gosport peninsular (ecosystem services) and ‘no’ to any large out of town residential planning applications. Instead it would favour renewable infrastructure, research and development into renewables, Passivhaus home construction, public transport initiatives and sport & wellness developments.
• Designate specific parts of the county/town/district solely for ecosystem services, protecting them from any future development. These can be identified with local expertise.
• Employ the “30 by 30” rule for all land occupied by, managed by or owned by local authorities. This is now enshrined in the Environment Bill – that 30% of all land must be set aside for nature recovery by 2030. This can include verges, parks, grounds around facilities, land taken by development, school grounds and private gardens.
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?
• I have no experience in this area, but I would hope that loans will only be available from Banks that do not fund fossil fuel projects.
What funding and resources are available for local authority work on net zero, and what are the priorities for improving local authority funding?
• I understand there are five funds available from five Government Departments, which is confusing for local authorities and must be simplified.
• Actually all Government funding should now have zero-carbon at its heart.
What should government’s analysis of net zero funding to local authorities focus on in the next Spending Review?
• Here in East Hampshire there is a cumbersome three or four tier* arrangement of local authorities. This is not only an inefficient use of tax-payers money, but it presents obstacles to delivering net-zero carbon. I strongly suggest, as did Hampshire County Council in 2016, that MHCLG should look hard at the restructuring of local Government in East Hampshire, in the name both of efficiency and delivering on net zero carbon.
• Funding must focus on creating small expert-led climate crisis departments within Councils, ie. well paid and senior staff who will
How is central government co-ordinating its engagement with local government on net zero?
• I completely agree with the NAO Report Conclusions:
“There are serious weaknesses in central government’s approach to working with local authorities on decarbonisation, stemming from a lack of clarity over local authorities’ overall roles, piecemeal funding, and diffuse accountabilities. This hampers local authorities’ ability to plan effectively for the long-term, build skills and capacity, and prioritise effort. It creates significant risks to value for money as spending is likely to increase quickly”.
What role can local community groups play in helping local authorities achieve their net zero ambitions?
• Local groups in East Hampshire are almost doing the work that our local councils could be doing, such as planting trees & nurturing verges, mapping land for nature recovery, and the roll-out of the Greener Homes Grant to low-income households. It should not rest with volunteer organisations to undertake the bulk of what is required to help achieve net-zero carbon and climate change mitigation.
• Community Groups need to feel they can work as equal partners with our local authorities to engage in net-zero projects and help roll out the messages, learning, skills and practical help that will help influence individual and group climate action locally. Key to this will be an inclusive functional climate crisis department at in local government.
• Together, local Climate Crisis officers and community groups could embark on long and short-term projects, awareness-raising events and practical help.
• A new central hub for information, advice to householders & gardeners, tips and community ideas needs to be co-created by a new local authority Climate Crisis Team and local Climate Action Networks. This would bring together a myriad of helpful ideas and leads, even a local market-place for food, tools, labour, car-shares, etc.
* Hampshire County Councii; East Hampshire District Council, South Downs National Park Authority and Town Councils
Melanie Claire Oxley (Mrs)
On behalf of PeCAN https://petersfieldcan.org/about-us