Recent concerns have arisen around the fact that plans to tackle climate change have been derailed by the pandemic. The UK’s green recovery must be at the forefront of the public sector’s agenda to ensure local authorities are on track to meet 2050 net-zero targets - but also stay ahead of the curve.
The coronavirus outbreak has inevitably impacted the UK economy but continuing to take action to address climate change must remain a core priority. Staying on track to meet Green targets, while at the same time driving skilled employment, is vital to aid business growth and economic recovery.
Despite the concerns, during the first wave of the virus there was a wide acknowledgement that the air was cleaner. This positive environmental effect raised questions on what this would mean for the future of travel, transport and housing.
As people’s working habits have changed, it is important to consider how this will benefit the environment and how local authorities can use this as an opportunity to encourage change. If offices are still being heated, but individuals continue using heating more at home, what impact will this have on the green spectrum? In some ways, one of the greatest dilemmas facing local authorities is understanding how our new living patterns will impact the green agenda.
Local green stimulus
Not only do public sector bodies have a responsibility to act now while there is still time, but supporting local institutions is an opportunity for them to tackle climate change beyond the Government’s lowest requirements.
With local restrictions increasing and the way public sector buildings are being used changing, it is important to rethink the way facilities are being managed. The focus needs to centre on making them more energy efficient and minimising any negative impact on their carbon footprint, especially while some lie dormant.
Funds like the Public Sector Low Carbon Skills Fund can help local authorities with how they meter things and give them smarter controls. In old buildings where the lights are on all the time, simply putting in new control systems can transform energy management and efficiency. We do recognise that a lot of councils need to review the facilities they need to keep long term, in order to prioritise what needs to be improved first.
Carbon management plans and energy efficiency projects
In line with the Government’s 2050 net-zero targets, a number of councils have declared a state of climate emergency as they struggle to work with no specific strategies in place.
A simple way to tackle climate change is to invest in decarbonisation through improving the energy efficiency of their estates. This can be achieved by replacing old lighting with LEDs, investing in better heating systems, adopting new BEMS (Building and Energy Management Systems), boiler replacements, and improving building insulation.
Investing in green installations not only leads to a reduction in carbon emissions, it encourages huge energy savings and funds to be redeployed elsewhere.
It’s easy to understand why public sector leaders are concerned about energy efficiency and how to stay on track in the current climate. This is why local authorities must play an active role in the green recovery over the coming years.
By undertaking energy efficiency projects, local authorities can identify necessary upgrades and implement more competent systems. Government funds to do just that and support them in making long-term upgrades. It’s important to have something positive to work towards and not let plans to tackle the climate emergency diminish during tough times.
Jo Mills is assistant director of programmes at Salix Finance