The government may have missed opportunities but combining national commitment with action by local authorities there’s an opportunity to make sure that tackling the climate crisis also comes with climate justice.
The failure of the Government’s offshore wind auction is just the latest example of the Tories failed approach to tackling climate change in the UK. From David Cameron’s cutting of the ‘green crap’, the effective ban on onshore wind, the removal of the feed-in-tariff through to their chaotic home insulation schemes, they have missed every opportunity, leaving the UK in the net zero slow lane.
In the midst of a cost-of-living crisis households and businesses that are paying a high price for this lack of action. However there’s a recognition from Labour front bench that framing climate action as a means of tackling the cost-of-living crisis, and indeed as a means of addressing multiple public policy priorities, such as health and economic development, can achieve more widespread consensus.
Despite the Government’s failure to establish a national programme of climate communications, as recommended by their own advisors, a number of local authorities, have established effective local climate conversations. What’s more, because these discussions are rooted in local communities, they can be more tangible because they are addressing local priorities.
Local authorities are well placed to take real action, and – where they get local conversations right – build support for meaningful changes.
In my own area Labour-run Reading Borough Council, we have made huge progress without major opposition to measures: this includes council support for sustainable cooperative energy, with Reading Community Energy, (which I’m a volunteer director of), now operating 22 sites across the area, through planning policy and through promoting active travel. Our council owned bus company, is of course another example of how climate action can go hand in hand with social justice: a regular, clean bus service benefits everyone, but those without access to private transport most of all. Working with civil society and business has meant all this action adds up. Reading may have the 4th largest reduction in carbon emissions in the UK but there are many similar stories of action across the country.
While there needs to be a clear and consistent approach to delivering climate action from an incoming Labour Government, it is vital that there is a just transition for all communities.
The benefits of investment now are obvious: new skilled jobs, lower bills, and increased energy security. Yet, it can be seen that despite very clear benefits in terms of improved health outcomes, it was relatively easy for a vocal minority to generate a backlash against the ULEZ expansion and while that was about clean air, there is a danger of the same rhetoric being used against climate action. The need to accelerate climate action means we cannot afford future missteps. We need to make sure all our communities are listened to and benefit from climate action in the UK, with no one left behind.