‘Think Global – Act Local’ E.F Schumacher
Local and regional Governments find themselves increasingly at the forefront in the battle against the impacts of climate change. While national governments continue to prevaricate and placate the big money interests, City and Regional Authorities are left to clean up the mess of storms, floods and fires and manage the impacts of drought and heat waves. No amount of denial can enable a City Mayor or Council to avoid the reality of flooded streets, damaged property and rising mortality rates. After a disaster, people want action to rebuild their lives quickly, and assurance that the authorities are ready in the event of further disruptive events.
Faced with the reality of the impacts of climate change, local authorities have formed a range of mutual support alliances often as a response to the lack of support from their national governments. It is they who have to find the finance needed to repair damage and to make the necessary adaptations to infrastructure. In addition to the impacts of climate change, Cities and Regions face a range of related issues that include the impacts of growing urbanisation, increasing social provision and manage growing populations and pollution.
To get recognition of the role that Local and Regional governments are playing in delivering the Paris and Sustainable Development goals, a coalition of organisations representing the sub-national level of government met at COP23 to show national governments and the world that local and regional governments, together with their partners in the business sector, academia and civil society, are #united4climate with a strong message to share for joint climate action. In essence this message is that by acting cooperatively at the local level it will be possible to deliver the ambition goals set in Paris and keep the rise in global temperatures below 2C.
One organisation within this coalition is European Climate Alliance, that includes 1,715 cities, municipalities and districts together with NGO’s and local community Groups. It is unfortunate that Oxford is the only UK representative in t his Alliance, a situation that Greens should work to rectify by pressurising local authorities in their areas to join. Membership is not restricted to urban areas, and it is important that the rural areas are properly represented on this and other global forums. The impacts of climate change will be no less in the countryside that will feel the impacts of floods, fires, drought and changes to the local ecology.
The aims of the Climate Alliance is to enable action at the local level that is fair, based on sound ecological principles, resource lean, locally focused inclusive and diverse. Ambitious goals, but it is recognised that for climate action to be effective it needs to be locally relevant and organised in such a way that the members of the local communities are engaged. Projects also need to be practical and sustainable, focused on real needs on the ground and not meekly delivering remote targets or business plans.
Climate Alliance members are committed to the continuous reduction of their greenhouse gas emissions, pledging to cut emissions by 10 percent every 5 years, equivalent
to a halving of per capita emissions by 2030 from 1990 levels. Each member has also signed
up to the long term goal of levelling off at 2.5 tonnes CO2 per person and year, down from the current level of 9 tonnes. [European Average]
Climate Alliance cities undertake a wide array of measures to close this emissions gap, mostly focusing on a mix of energy conservation, energy efficiency and the use of renewable energies. Actions undertaken across Europe include:
- implement urban planning and transport policy that promote climate-friendly mobility.
- give incentives and shape building codes to encourage energy efficiency in the building sector
- serve as role models with their own public buildings stock.
- shape their emissions through targeted, climate-conscious public procurement, water use and waste disposal strategies
- influence agriculture, forestry and tourism strategies
- engage with residents, enabling them to contribute to the fight against climate change in their own everyday lives, be it in terms of consumption patterns, lifestyle choices or ways of doing business.
By taking such actions locally with the clear objective of contributing to the internationally set ambition to keep global temperatures below 2C, local communities give a lead to central government and international forums to pressure them to create a supportive framework to enable this local delivery. Over the last 25 years since the Rio Declaration, central governments have been weak in the face of the vested interest lobbying from fossil and financial sectors. They have not shown the leadership required to steer us away from the dangers we now face with changing weather patterns on top of a range of other environmental and social problems.
In the UK local government has been deliberately weakened by a succession of central governments intent on gathering all power to itself, then failing to use that power in the interests of the general public. Globally, local government is taking action and therefore effective power in response to the neglect of the central authorities. UK local authorities need to follow this example. By engagement with their local communities, action groups, academics and their local business community, they can form partnerships within the mold of the Climate Alliance to find ways of taking needed action. By engaging with members of the community, they will gain their support and increase their reputation, giving strength to local governments in their negotiations with central government for adequate funding and support.
Written by Mike Shipley on behalf of East Midlands Green Party