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Last week, George Osborne announced that Britain “should not be in front of the rest of the world” in tackling climate change. As a result, a number of policies that shape Britain’s green agenda (CO2 reduction targets, the carbon price floor…) might be affected. This creates uncertainty and raises questions over the country’s future ability to cut its carbon emissions and compete in the green technologies sector.
So what do UK cities think about this? Many would prefer more action on the green economy. They are already ahead of the game and their drive towards ‘Going Green’ has never been greater.
Why? Because for cities, ‘Going Green’ makes both environmental and economic sense: cities want to provide their residents with a cleaner, healthier environment and build a comparative advantage in the green sector in order to attract new investment and generate jobs.
How? By promoting low carbon-focused activities in their area such as investing in renewable energy or improving energy efficiency in buildings and transportation. These activities (and many more) aim to lower carbon emissions in the city and create new jobs.
According to BIS, the Low Carbon Environmental Good and Services sector (LCEGS), which accounts for most low carbon-focused activities, employs over 900,000 workers and is growing. Nevertheless, there is still widespread scepticism over how many additional new jobs the green sector will generate and what value it adds to the economy. So the economic case for going green still needs to be strengthened.
In this context, an increasing number of UK cities, big and small, are capitalising on opportunities in the green sector and implementing long term climate change strategies. In order to better understand what challenges they face, what sectors they focus on and what support they need. Centre for Cities conducted a short survey of UK city authorities, LEPs and other forms of local government. We found out the following:
Most respondents have a climate change strategy in place, and 2 of the 5 respondents who don’t have a strategy said that they are planning to implement one in the next year.
Most respondents think that the implementation of a green strategy will have positive economic benefits. Most respondents stated that a green strategy will create jobs and attract new businesses; only 2 stated that it will have no effect on the economy. None of the respondents viewed it as having negative effects.
The most frequently cited challenges include policy uncertainty and clarity, lack of public and private funding and lack of technical assistance from the government. Other challenges include weak local leadership, lack of data and lack of business buy-in.
The 3 most targeted sectors include energy, buildings and transportation. More specifically,respondents thought that reducing energy demand and improving energy efficiency, retrofitting private and public sector buildings and reducing emissions from transport were key to reducing carbon emissions in their area.
The 3 sectors with greatest potential for generating green jobs are regarded as the construction sector, green technology manufacturing and renewable energy. These include construction and retrofit of green buildings, manufacturing of low carbon vehicles and investment in renewables such as wind, nuclear, and others.
Most respondents think that central government should offer more incentives, policy certainty and funding. Other actions include better green regulation and a complete overhaul of infrastructure regulation.
The survey gives us an idea of what local authorities think they need to implement their green agendas, and policy uncertainty is definitely not on the list. It will be interesting to see whether the government takes its plans forward, and how cities will respond as their double mission of achieving economic growth and doing it sustainably becomes more challenging.
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