Hackney councillor orders government to grant local authorities new powers to meet emissions targets

Local people gathered at Hackney Downs Park at noon and marched across Hackney for the climate.

Local people marched across Hackney in May demanding the council fully divest from fossil fuels.  - Credit: Divest Hackney

Hackney councillor Polly Billington has ordered the government to grant councils tough new powers to help them reach net-zero emissions targets.

Billington – a former special adviser to ex-Labour leader Ed Miliband – joined forces with 32 mayors and council officials from across the UK in calling for further devolution in a bid to make Britain carbon-neutral by 2050.

Among the powers demanded by Billington’s UK100 group of local councils is the ability to shape emerging energy markets and subsidise electrical vehicle charging points.

The statement also requested aid in decarbonising transport and buildings, and measures that would force the the UK Infrastructure Bank to invest in local net-zero projects.

Boris Johnson’s government committed to getting three-quarters of the way to net zero by 2050 in what it described as the “world’s most ambitious climate change target”.

But speaking at a press conference alongside West Midlands mayor Andy Street, Billington warned that “they can’t do it without us” – and called for a “new and enhanced partnership”.

She said: “We need a power shift from central government to local communities to tackle climate change.

“Local leaders are more trusted, more accountable and in the case of the UK100 – more ambitious in accelerating the path to net-zero.

“Regional city and local authorities are the key to realising the transition to net zero for the government is committed to.

“In short, they can’t do it without us. We are proposing a new and enhanced partnership so that local authorities can be the partner of choice for government.

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“We propose a new enhanced partnership with a devolved government and local authorities to accelerate that transition to net-zero, and to support the UK international position as a net-zero pioneer, of course, particularly important, ahead of [the UN Climate Change Conference] COP26 being hosted in Glasgow, a little later this year.

“We have six asks in this communiqué. That the UK Infrastructure Bank prioritises net-zero local investment, that they help to reduce costs to create a seamless electric vehicle charging network across the UK, that there is a long-term plan to support local authorities to decarbonise homes and buildings, to establish strategic energy bodies with a mandate to reach net-zero, and to have a target to reverse natural decline in the environment bill.”

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