How can local councils transition to Net Zero? By Dr James Cadman

A recent article revealed that 7 in 10 UK Councils are struggling to finance their net-zero transition.

This is perhaps not surprising given the current backdrop of rising commodity and fuel prices, war in Ukraine, the world’s economy emerging from the COVID pandemic, and the continuing fallout from Brexit.

However, the climate crisis is ever-present and is currently only going in one direction. The most recent measurements of global CO2 levels are 419ppm, almost 80ppm above widely accepted levels. Indeed it is quite probably being worsened by the global events mentioned above.

I wrote an optimistic blog for World Environment Day in June 2020, at the height of the pandemic and the UK’s first lockdown, commenting on clearer skies and reduced emissions. As wonderful as it was, we knew then that it wouldn’t last. However, we also knew that it was a wake-up call and a view of what’s possible. By way of one simple example that we can all relate to, we’ve all embraced remote working to a greater or lesser extent.

Nonetheless it goes without saying that we can’t hold back on our action against global heating due to short term problems and parliamentary cycles; there will always be something we have to deal with immediately.

In fact, we must look at the challenges that face us and consider how we can seize them as opportunities to drive a just transition to a lower carbon world. The price of fossil fuels – due to the bounce back in production after the pandemic and the horrendous conditions 1325 miles to the east of the UK – is clarion call to push investment into renewables. This benefits not only the planet, but also energy security and global political stability.

Coming back to local councils, we’ve all seen how their budgets have been cut. That is a matter for the polling station and election box and not for this blog.

But what can be done is for local authorities to similarly view their spending from the point of view of their net zero targets. This is where professional disciplines overlap: by using sustainable procurement as the lever we can all achieve so much more in our work towards our sustainability goals, with carbon being but one of them.

Action Sustainability recently supported a collaboration of nine local authorities in West London with their ambition to drive down carbon in their supply chains to meet their own net-zero carbon targets. By engaging and consulting with them we created a Low Carbon Procurement Toolkit.

The toolkit contained a variety of elements: a supply chain charter to share the ambitions of the authorities with their suppliers; a policy to state the actions and responsibilities; a detailed toolkit containing model ITT questions, answers, and guidance; all of which was supported by training and supplier outreach.

Using a toolkit such as this will support the move towards lower carbon solutions, working with suppliers in a collaborative fashion. Let’s be honest, though, this is not an overnight solution. It requires engagement, conversation and changing ways of working, procuring and managing projects and contracts.

But what is the alternative?

James Cadman

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James Cadman
Head of Consultancy and carbon

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