88 local leaders commit to net zero ahead of UK government

Eighty-eight cross-party Mayors and Leaders of Councils, representing over half of the UK population, from London to rural Scotland, are now committed to meeting Net Zero at least five years earlier than the UK government.

In the weeks ahead of COP26, the annual UN climate conference hosted in 2021 by the UK, 23 more council leaders from all four corners of the UK signed up to the NGO UK100’s ‘Net Zero Pledge’.

The new UK100 members include South Tyneside Council, Suffolk County Council, Portsmouth City Council, East Ayrshire Council and Greater London Authority.

Mayor Sadiq Khan, who represents 8.9 million Londoners, joins UK100 as its biggest member and with some of the most ambitious local climate action in the country.

The new commitments, from rural and metro councils alike across the UK, come just over a week before COP26, with Cllr Douglas Reid highlighting the “innovative thinking and practical work” to meet Net Zero in East Ayrshire, Scotland.

And Cllr Ben Fitter-Harding, Conservative Leader of Canterbury City Council, says ahead of COP26 “we are signalling our intent to achieve Net Zero by joining other leading local authorities from across the country who are prioritising climate action”.

UK100’s Net Zero Pledge commits the local authorities to cutting their council emissions to Net Zero by 2030 and those of their residents and businesses by 2045 – five years ahead of the UK government’s 2050 target.

The UK government’s Net Zero Strategy, released on Tuesday, references UK100’s policy proposals in this area, as set out in UK100’s Net Zero Local Leadership Communique.

The communique proposes a new, enhanced partnership with the UK government to accelerate the transition to Net Zero.

Christopher Hammond, Network Membership Director at UK100, said: “As the international community comes together in Glasgow for COP26, global decisions need to be delivered at a local level. It’s a task that will need bold leadership, legislative clarity, shifts in behaviour and enthusiastic adoption of new technologies.

“Local government is uniquely placed to overcome these challenges. Not only do they provide services, but they have a unique sphere of influence.”

Cllr Douglas Reid, Leader of East Ayrshire Council, said: “We’ve signed up to the UK100 and aim to become a net zero Council by 2030, and are doing all we can to help our wider communities to achieve net zero by 2045. Our ambition is to end our local contribution to climate change within a generation.

“In November this year the world will look to Scotland as the venue for the United Nations COP26 climate summit. This marks the most important moment for the international climate challenge since the Paris Agreement in 2015.”

Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson, Leader of Portsmouth City Council, said: “I believe that, as city leaders, we have to play a significant part in bringing down greenhouse gas emissions and we are doing work across a range of areas in Portsmouth to do this, including looking at emissions from our own estate and working with partners across the city. We could do more if we had greater levers and therefore we are excited by the opportunity to work with the UK100’s network and government.”

Cllr Ben Fitter-Harding, Leader of Canterbury City Council, said: “Our district is a mix of rural, coastal and, in part, medieval areas, bringing their own opportunities and challenges as we strive to remove carbon emissions. By being part of the UK100 network we will be able to learn from other councils facing similar issues and help achieve our common goal.”

Cllr Anna Smith, Deputy Leader and Incoming Leader of Cambridge City Council, said: “We have set a target to reduce the Council’s direct carbon emissions to net zero by 2030. We have also shared a vision for Cambridge to be net zero carbon by the same date, and are working collaboratively with our residents, businesses and partner organisations to try to reduce carbon emissions from the city as rapidly as possible.”

“However, we need much greater ambition, commitment and investment by national Government. In signing the pledge, we are joining the leaders of other local authorities in the UK100 in calling on the Government to accelerate delivery at a national level and provide the powers and funding needed to support local climate action.”

Cllr Lynn Williams, Leader of Blackpool Council, said: “We are all guilty of taking for granted the systems on which we build our lives, ecological and man-made, natural and designed. The climate crisis challenges both.

“Our efforts now can transform the lives of future generations. Together, we will re-make our town, society and planet, so that we will never again need to feel a pang of guilt as we consider our legacy.”

Cllr Muhammed Butt, Leader of Brent Council, said: “In Brent we recognise that net zero is not just a question for tomorrow, but the challenge of today – demanding the power of collective actions and ideas from people, places and institutions; in exchange for a brighter, more sustainable tomorrow.”

Cllr Barry Wood, Leader of Cherwell District Council, said: “Cherwell District Council declared a climate emergency in July 2019 and we are working to make all of our operations and activities zero carbon by 2030.

“We are delighted to join UK100 and sign the Net Zero Pledge. It will enable us to work closely and share best practice with other local authorities and policy experts who share our ambition, and it is a sign of the importance we place on our commitment to tackle the climate crisis.”

Cllr Louise Gittins, Leader of Cheshire West and Chester Council, said: “COP26 is a unique opportunity to change how we tackle the climate crisis. It is focused on collaborative working and our Climate Emergency response plan is clear that we need to work together, as a borough and alongside other local authorities and the government.

“By working together with our UK100 partners, we can make our collective voice stronger than ever, showcase our achievements in the borough and ensure that Cheshire West and Chester is at the heart of the green industrial revolution.”

Cllr Virginia Taylor, Leader of Eden District Council, said: “Membership of the UK100 will put the Council in both national and international forums sharing best practice and will help to progress Eden’s climate change objectives and biodiversity commitments.”

Cllr Richard Cook, Leader of Gloucester City Council, said: “The escalating climate emergency presents an unprecedented challenge to all tiers of government, and particularly the towns and cities providing essential frontline services upon which the public rely.

“The demands that will be increasingly placed on Local Government to both mitigate and adapt to a rapidly warming world mean the kind of peer support, knowledge sharing, and collective voice provided by UK100 is more important than ever. I look forward to Gloucester playing a leading role in this process.”

Cllr Zoe Nicholson, Leader of Lewes District Council, said: “We are fully committed to our journey to net zero and have many aspects of our strategy are already underway in Lewes district towards our commitment of becoming fully climate resilient and achieving carbon net zero by 2030, and our signing of the UK100’s Net Zero Pledge ahead of COP26 serves to reinforce this work.

“We look forward to sharing knowledge and working with our partners to find innovative solutions, alongside strengthening and accelerating this nation’s response to the global climate emergency we are all facing.”

Cllr Peray Ahmet, Leader of the London Borough of Haringey, said: “We hope that together we can increase the lobbying power of councils delivering this challenging but vital varin reduction ambition and that together we can share the joy (and the challenges) of addressing the Climate Change challenges we face.

“As an authority we will help you through officer and member participation at events and providing you with case studies so others can learn from our experiences.”

Mayor of Newham Rokhsana Fiaz OBE, London Borough of Newham, said: “It is a really important and timely declaration in our commitment to combat climate change and accelerates our ambitions to reduce our damaging and toxic emissions as we approach COP26.

“In joining UK100 we will be part of a common advocacy and framework. This announcement today begins a month of setting out and stepping up of our actions as we approach the COP conference. We will be taking this message out into the wider community — that we stand ready to take forward our roadmap to carbon zero. But the government must deliver with the resources and power to get on with this, and so we will be raising our voices on behalf of our residents.”

Mayor John Biggs, London Borough of Tower Hamlets, said: “We are planting trees, investing in renewable energy and electric charging points, improving the energy efficiency of our schools and buildings, and working hard to improve recycling boroughwide. We are focused on reducing reliance on petrol and phasing out diesel vehicles.

“We look forward to working in collaboration with members of UK100 to call for urgent collective actions to tackle the climate emergency, to deliver social, environmental and economic benefits and support a just transition toward net zero. We also call on Government to provide the leadership, resources, appropriate guidance and legislation needed in the journey to net zero.”

Cllr Alan Waters, Leader of Norwich City Council, said: “Being a member of UK100 is really important to Norwich City Council. Councils have an important leadership role in creating low-carbon and climate resilient communities.

“By working together we can lobby government with a louder voice to provide the necessary resources to combat the climate and biodiversity emergencies. Change is needed urgently, and people, businesses and institutions will need to work together like never before to make our future environment a sustainable and liveable one for all generations to come”

Cllr Tracey Dixon, Leader of South Tyneside Council, said: “This isn’t about talk, it’s about action. It’s about leading on the issues that we can directly affect and using our collective power to bring about national policy change.

“We’ve already set ourselves ambition targets as a council and we are delivering on those. Our next challenge is to work in partnership across the borough and beyond. The most significant changes need national policy change and significant investment from central government. By working together as UK100 we can hopefully make a real difference on bringing forward those big national policy changes we are so desperate to see.”

Cllr Matthew Hicks, Leader of Suffolk County Council, said: “Rising to the challenge of climate change has long been a top priority for Suffolk County Council; our Greenest County Awards started back in 2007, we were amongst the first councils to declare a Climate Emergency, and we’ve an ambitious goal to be a net zero authority by 2030.

“We know that to address climate change everyone in our society needs to act; whether that’s a local council, a school, community organisation, businesses, or each of us as individuals. We all need to think about the choices we make in our day to day lives. This is why Suffolk Public Sector Leaders have agreed the Suffolk Climate Emergency Plan, which will help drive a green economic recovery in our county and make sure everyone in our communities can be involved.

Cllr Roger Truelove, Leader of Swale Borough Council, said: “When we took office in 2019, one of our first actions was to declare a climate and ecological emergency and set ambitious targets for the council and the borough.

“COP26 gives us a fantastic opportunity to lobby Government to provide the finance and powers councils need to do so much more to meet our ambitious targets for the borough.”

Cllr Sarah Nelmes, Leader of Three Rivers District Council, said: “The Climate Emergency is one of the greatest challenges of our generation, transcending party politics and geographical boundaries.

“But we cannot do it alone. Urgent action is needed at a national level. That’s why as a council we are proud to sign the Net Zero Pledge and work cross party with members across the UK and beyond to accelerate the delivery of climate action.”

Cllr Emily Smith, Leader of Vale of White Horse District Council, said: “Tackling the climate emergency is a key priority for Vale of White Horse District Council. We need to work together and learn from each other if we are to find workable and effective solutions to meet our carbon neutral targets.

“Ahead of COP26, signing the Net Zero Pledge and joining UK:100 puts us in a much better position to share knowledge with those who face similar issues. It also means we will be part of a wider community that works together to bring about genuine change, while helping to ensure that our own ambitions and ideas also result in meaningful action.”

Mayor Peter Taylor, Watford Borough Council, said: “Watford Borough Council is working extremely hard to make the changes needed to tackle climate change – whether that’s through our sustainable travel strategy, the revitalisation of our natural spaces, or many of our other projects.

“That’s why we’re so excited to be taking the Net-Zero Pledge ahead of COP26, doing our part as a town to combat climate change, and create a greener, cleaner future – both for Watford, and the world.”

Image: Shutterstock

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