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Homes, roads and parks could all be better protected from the effects of climate change after an agreement was struck between ministers and local government.
An agreement between Defra, the Department for Communities and Local Government (CLG) and the Local Government Association (LGA) called for vital public services to be better protected and emergency planning and social care made more resilient after signing a joint statement showing their commitment to adapt the country to climate change.
The agreement was reached at a Climate Summit hosted by the LGA in response to the impacts identified in the UK Climate Change Risk Assessment 2012, published earlier this year.
The Summit was called to assess what more needed to done to prepare councils, and the vital public services they are responsible for, for a changing climate and how Government can help them develop adaptation plans. Their findings will inform the National Adaptation Programme, which the Government will publish in 2013.
Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman, Communities Minister Andrew Stunell and Local Government Association Chair Sir Merrick Cockell signed the agreement, signalling the importance of councils and central government working together to protect key services such as, health, economic development and public spaces such as parks, from the affects of climate change.
Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman said:
“Local councils are responsible for the services we use on a daily basis, from the condition of the roads, state of our parks and providing social care - so it’s vitally important that they are prepared for climate change so these services will remain unaffected.
“This agreement sets out the areas where action is needed, so councils can prioritise and commit resources in the best possible way. We will be working closely with the Local Government Association as we plan the National Adaptation Programme that will ensure the country is climate ready.”
LGA Chairman Sir Merrick Cockell said:
“Councils are already at the heart of protecting people from the disruption caused by the changing climate and extreme weather. We know firsthand the risks and how best to mitigate them whether that be developing flood defences, gritting the roads during a snowy winter or laying on extra care for vulnerable people in a heat wave.
“Local authorities have built up a wealth of experience and expertise at combating the challenges brought by Mother Nature. Weather conditions and climate threats differ throughout the country. This is why it is key that local authorities are given maximum flexibility to develop their own ideas and strategies. Centrally imposed targets often miss the point and, at a time when councils have had their budgets cut by 28 per cent, risk being unaffordable.
“To support councils the LGA is developing a new initiative, Climate Local, to drive and champion council-led action on climate change in a way which will ensure local authorities can get the best results and value for money with the resources they have available.”
Communities Minister Andrew Stunell said:
“Climate Change is very real, and local leadership is crucial to tackling the problem, both now and in the future. Many councils are already leading the way and driving local action, which is crucial if their communities are to grow and prosper.
“I am delighted to support the Climate Local Initiative and the framework for locally-led action that it will provide.”
Climate Local will provide options which councils can sign up to on how to minimise the impact of climate change, provide a forum for councils to learn from each other’s experiences and help in planning the actions they need to take to be climate ready.
The full commitment by the LGA, CLG and Defra is below.
We recognise the importance of increasing resilience to our changing climate. We now know more about what the impacts of climate change will mean for us. The UK’s first National Climate Change Risk Assessment identifies the urgent risks we need to act on now including: flood risk, pressure on water supplies and the impacts of higher temperatures on public health, critical infrastructure and energy use.
Councils have a critical role to play in working with partners and communities to plan and ensure the UK is better prepared and resilient to climate change. They can help to increase the resilience of local places and communities, including by:
- building resilience into decisions on buildings, roads, businesses, parks and other public spaces;
- building resilience into key services such as social care, emergency planning and public health;
- making the best use of land, assets, investments and maintenance spending, to manage risk better;
- planning for the long term by reflecting climate risks and sustainable development in Local Plans;
- increasing organisational resilience to extreme weather by building climate change risks into corporate risk registers;
- supporting retrofitting, green-build, the design and management of green spaces;
- encouraging local businesses to be climate ready, to ensure they are resilient and competitive.
Central Government acknowledges the importance of locally-led action on climate change to strengthen resilience to current and future climate risk. Government will work with the Local Government Association (LGA) to develop a framework for action that sets out a clear narrative on ways in which councils can build climate resilience. The National Adaptation Programme will be informed by the local government sector and will showcase examples of council-led action.
The LGA commits to working with partners including Defra, Department forCommunitiesand Local Government and the Environment Agency to support councils to build resilience to climate risks so that timely, far sighted and well informed decisions may be made.
Recognising the cross-cutting nature of climate change, the LGA will continue to work with councils to help them build in resilience and promote the economic and financial opportunities and benefits across their key local priorities.
Through the development of the new Climate Local initiative, the LGA will aim to represent and support councils to act on climate risks and to showcase their local commitment, ambitions and achievements. Climate Local will provide a framework through which councils can organise and plan their journey in addressing climate change and a forum for peer-to-peer learning.